In that spirit, let’s take a look at Warsaw, host city of the first game between Poland and Greece on June 8.
I’m not there to partake in all the excitement and turn my camera lens on the frenzy of high-stake games, face-painted fans, etc. So instead let me mention something about history of the National Stadium site that in a way encapsulates the modern history of Warsaw. At the end of WWII Warsaw after failed 1944 uprising against German occupation was a sea of ruins, a city effectively wiped out from the face of the earth. Post-war Soviet domination during which the initial reconstruction took place brought with it some architectural monstrosities, including the so-called 10th-Anniversary Stadium built in 1955 to commemorate a decade of said Soviet domination. It became a prime location for various state-sponsored festivities and a site of one of the most memorable moments of anti-authoritarian resistance. On September 8, 1968 former Home Army soldier Ryszard Siwiec self-immolated at the stadium during a national harvest festival in protest against the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in which People’s Republic of Poland participated as a member of the Warsaw Pact. In the 1980s – like communist Poland’s economy as a whole – the stadium became dilapidated. After 1989 it was turned into a huge open air bazaar called Jarmark Europa where you could buy anything from imported jeans to counterfeit CDs. Finally in 2008 it was demolished to make room for the new National Stadium that shined in the opener game of Euro 2012.
The story of the National Stadium is the story of Warsaw – destruction, rebirth, decline, and renewal. This is Warsaw today, a modern, dynamic city in many parts unrecognizable not only compared to 1945 but 1995. Behold my “best of” collection: