People turned out in huge numbers on Sunday afternoon to attend the opening ceremony of Poland's largest UEFA EURO 2012 venue as the National Stadium Warsaw staged its opening ceremony.
The first 40,000 to arrive were treated to a memorable free music festival with performances by several well-known and diverse Polish bands, including VooVoo i Haydamaky, Zakopower, Coma, T. Love and Lady Pank.
Among the numerous other events to mark the occasion was a competition in which entrants were required to devise the most interesting use of a chocolate model of the new arena, which had been made by UEFA EURO 2012 sponsor E. Wedel. The winning proposition was to break the huge chocolate model into pieces and hand them out to children from Warsaw's orphanages.
Located on the eastern banks of the Vistula in the district of Praga Poludnie, the 50,000-seater National Stadium Warsaw lies on the site of the old Tenth Anniversary Stadium, which, partly constructed using rubble collected from the site of the Warsaw Uprising, had stood since 1955.
Primarily a football stadium, it also hosted athletics and cycling, and, in 1983, Pope John Paul II gave mass to a congregation of 100,000. It held its last international that year but then fell into disrepair, and since 1989 it had been home to a bazaar.
"I am very happy that the National Stadium has been finally unveiled," said Poland's tournament director, Adam Olkowicz. "It's the biggest Polish venue for this year's final tournament. On 8 June, we will witness the opening ceremony here followed by the first match between Poland and Greece. I hope that Poland's players play to their best, with the backing of thousands of local supporters.
"On 29 February, Franciszek Smuda's side face a stern test against Portugal, exactly 100 days before the start of UEFA EURO 2012. As of now, all of the EURO venues in Poland and Ukraine are ready and we are working hard to prepare them for this big festival of football."
The ceremony closed out to a spectacular fireworks display in the wonderful setting of the new stadium and the nearby Vistula. The first football match at National Stadium Warsaw will be the Polish Super Cup encounter between Legia Warszawa and Wisła Kraków on 11 February.
The National Stadium Warsaw is one of five venues constructed especially for this summer's final tournament, along with the Arena Gdansk, Municipal Stadium Wroclaw, Arena Lviv and Kyiv's Olympic Stadium. The Municipal Stadium Poznan and Metalist Stadium have been revamped while the Donbass Arena, home of FC Shakhtar Donetsk, opened in August 2009.
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