EURO 2012​—A Historic Event

DO YOU enjoy watching a good soccer match​—or perhaps even participating in one? If so, likely you are aware of the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) EURO 2012 games, which are scheduled to kick off in Warsaw, Poland, on June 8, with the concluding match to be held on July 1, in Kiev, Ukraine. What is EURO 2012, and what preparations have gone into it? What makes it a historic event?

“Creating History Together”

European football (soccer) championships have been held in Europe every four years since 1960. Among the diverse countries that have hosted these matches are Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia.

This year, the final tournament will be jointly hosted by Poland and Ukraine. In Poland, the cities of Gdańsk, Poznan, Warsaw, and Wroclaw will host the games. In Ukraine, matches will play out in Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kiev, and L’viv.

According to UEFA, this “will be the third time that the final tournament is jointly hosted by two countries (after Belgium/​Netherlands  in 2000 [and] Austria/​Switzerland in 2008).” Even so, the EURO 2012 is historic. In what sense? This year’s final tournament is not only the culmination of much collaboration between the two host countries and the match’s organizers but also the first to be held in Central and Eastern Europe. Thus, the official slogan selected for this year’s event is “Creating History Together.”

Preparations

Of course, one of the most important preparations for any match is obtaining adequate playing facilities. To that end, the host cities of Poznan and Kharkiv have renovated existing stadiums, while the stadiums in the other six cities are completely new. These facilities will hold an estimated 358,000 spectators.

With so many spectators anticipated, the host cities have put much thought and effort into safety precautions. Thousands of security staff have been training for the event. According to Science & Scholarship in Poland, their training included “practicing safety tactics on 140 projects covering . . . crowd control, creating safety zones and cooperation with foreign security teams.”

Why are such measures necessary? For one thing, authorities recognize that large sporting events are potential targets for terrorist activity. They also know that rowdy spectators often pose a threat to one another, as past incidents of violence and hooliganism have revealed.

A Balanced Viewpoint

Sadly, many spectators take their interest in sports to an extreme. “My life is less happy and less fulfilled if my [soccer] team is doing badly,” states one fan. “I honestly believe that if nuclear war [were] a distinct possibility, my biggest worry would be if the next weekend’s matches would be affected.”

By contrast, consider the balanced view of recreation that we find in an ancient book of wisdom​—the Bible. It acknowledges the value of wholesome diversion in life, stating that there is “a time to laugh . . . and a time to skip about.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4) The Bible also encourages moderation. (1 Timothy 3:2, 11) Thus, when deciding what to center our lives on, we are wise to follow the Bible’s advice to “see the difference between what is important and what is not” and then to “choose what is important.”​—Philippians 1:10, Easy-to-Read Version.

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NO TOBACCO AT EURO 2012

On October 20, 2011, UEFA announced that it will “enforce a complete ban on the use, sale or promotion of tobacco in all stadia involved in UEFA EURO 2012.” The reason for the ban? “A tobacco-free EURO 2012 is about respecting the health of our spectators and everyone else involved in the tournament,” stated Michel Platini, president of UEFA. Among supporters of the ban are European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, who urged host cities to extend the smoke-free zone to include additional areas, such as restaurants and public transportation. “Football and sport are about health and performance,” states Vassiliou, “and tobacco is about the opposite: they just don’t mix.”

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POLAND

WARSAW

Gdańsk

Poznan

Wroclaw

UKRAINE

KIEV

L’viv

Kharkiv

Donetsk

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EURO 2008 final match between Germany and Spain, held at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, Austria

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Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine

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Pages 24 and 25, both photos: Getty Images