Euro 2012 capitals: Warsaw



Let me start by saying that I’m really not a soccer fan. But Euro 2012 is as much about the game itself as about the location: it is the first time since the fall of communism that this prestigious European Championship is held in Eastern Europe, jointly hosted by Poland and Ukraine. Incidentally, UEFA Euro 1976 took place in Yugoslavia – a state that is no more – and the final game featured two countries that no longer exist: Czechoslovakia and West Germany. Sadly, by now both current host countries are out of the game, with Germany and Portugal qualified for the semi-finals against yet unknown rivals. But as I said this tournament has been about much more then sports. For Poland and Ukraine, it’s also about gaining a new space in the consciousness of fellow Europeans and soccer fans around the world as real places – places worth visiting, learning more about, and exploring.

In that spirit, let’s take a look at Warsaw, host city of the first game between Poland and Greece on June 8.

Warsaw’s National Stadium (image: JSK Architekci sp. z o.o.)

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:

Warsaw panorama

Palace of Culture and Science

Downtown business district

Chopin statue

Old Town

Warszawska Syrenka – Warsaw Mermaid

Old Town wall

Łazienki Palace in winter

King Sigmund’s Column

Read on:


6 responses »

  1. Great post about Warsaw! And it’s so great for Eastern Europe to be in the spotlight for something good because as a whole the states get over looked unless something bad happens. Although both hosts are out, it’s showing how beautiful Poland and Ukraine are and how hospitable they can be (with the exception of the fights between Poles and Russians, but that can happen anywhere)

  2. Pingback: Euro 2012 capitals: Kyiv « Sandstone and amber

  3. Pingback: White City of the North | Sandstone and amber

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