On the eve of the first UEFA EURO 2012 semi-final, to be held at the Donbass Arena on Wednesday, the city of Donetsk is bracing itself for one last hurrah.
Many Spain fans have been in Donetsk since their quarter-final victory against France on Saturday, while their Portuguese counterparts are now starting to arrive from Warsaw, back home and beyond. The Spanish penchant for afternoon siestas on the city's lawns may have surprised many a local, yet the red-and-yellow-clad visitors have made nothing but a positive impression. One final influx of supporters is anticipated before Wednesday's 21.45CET kick-off, with around 200 flights expected at Donetsk Airport in the space of less than 36 hours.
There is more than just the football, though, to entertain these guests. Theatres, galleries and museums have provided welcome ports of calls for football followers, with about 100 Spain fans attending a performance at the Donetsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, named in honour of Anatoliy Solovyanenko. The Donetsk Art gallery and the Second World War Museum are also popular with this fresh incursion of tourists.
"On Sunday I was at the Second World War Museum and, despite the late hours, I came across supporters from France, England and Spain," said Donetsk mayor Aleksandr Lukyanchenko. "It's a pleasure to know that our city will leave good memories that are connected not only with football."
Meanwhile, Igor Martynov, head of the Donetsk fan zone, admitted numbers had fallen since Ukraine's exit from the tournament but is eyeing one final fling on 30 June. The Donetsk bike club, Voiny Vetra, will be among the attractions when the fan zone opens for one last celebration at 16.00 local time on Saturday.
"I would like to vary the proposed concert programme and add some colour," he said. "Maybe even try to surprise our foreign guests with the performance of our bikers, who can put on a great show. There will be stunt men and bikers demonstrating their skills – we invite everybody."
Management at the fan zone are hoping for an attendance of up to 30,000 for the UEFA EURO 2012 semi-finals.
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