Ukraine's president Victor Yanukovych is in no doubt that the new Arena Lviv will welcome generations of football fans as the last of the country's four UEFA EURO 2012 venues opened its doors on Saturday.
Though the president was not in attendance for the sold-out ceremony, he was an interested observer the previous day. "I have no doubt that the opening of this stadium will stay in the memory of the citizens of Lviv forever," he said. "This is a stadium for young football fans who will bring their children and grandchildren here in years to come."
The opening ceremony featured 2,000 volunteers, actors, dancers, acrobats and artists from various countries who appeared in a vast theatrical production dedicated to the history of Lviv. Other performers included several popular Ukrainian singers, notably 2004 Eurovision Song Contest winner Ruslana. The highlight of the evening was a concert by American songstress Anastacia, which was succeeded by a spectacular fireworks display.
Work on the stadium, which will stage three Group B matches next summer and is expected to house local side FC Karpaty Lviv, began in November 2008. Its design combines traditional Ukrainian architecture with a modern slant, its two-tiered stands offering perfect sightlines for viewing matches. A transparent roof protects fans from the elements, while a walkway at the back of the lower tier provides a sense of space and comfort.
With the seats in the upper deck predominantly blue, and those below mostly yellow in the design of the Ukrainian flag, the stadium's allegiances will be suitably reflected when Oleh Blokhin's side play their first match at the venue against Austria on 15 November. Four days earlier the national team will tackle Germany in their first outing at Kyiv's Olympic Stadium, which opened three weeks ago.
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