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Donetsk city guide

Venue for three group games, a quarter-final and a semi, Donetsk lies at the heart of Ukraine's coal mining region, home to slag heaps, socialist sculptures, a Silver Voice and Lily Pod.

Donetsk city guide
Donetsk city guide ©UEFA.com

Province: Donetsk Oblast
Population: 1,100,700
Area: 358km²
Altitude: 225m above sea level
June temperature: average highs of 23.1C and lows of 16.3C
Motto: Opportunity is proved with business

At the heart of the Donets Basin, Donetsk is the centre of Ukraine's coal mining region. South-east of Kyiv on the Kalmius River, it was founded in 1869 by Welsh businessman John Hughes, who established a steel mill and several coal mines in the area. A century and a half later and Donetsk's patrons are still built on foundations of steel and coal, the industries leaving an indelible mark on the cityscape.

Despite images of soot-caked faces and hob-nailed industry, the capital of the Donbas has actually been recognised by UNESCO as the world's cleanest industrial city and the centre is benefitting from a financial injection. Five rivers meander through it, while the Sea of Azov, the world's shallowest sea, is just an hour away.

Donetsk was originally called Yuzivka, derived from founder John Hughes, but within 50 years it had grown from a ramshackle Wild West town to a city of 50,000. In 1924 Yuzivka became Stalino and with the advent of a clean water supply and sewage system the population grew tenfold before World War Two – by 1945, after Nazi occupation, it was down to 175,000.

The city was renamed under Nikita Khrushchev, taking its current moniker from the Siverskyi Donets river, a tributary of the Don. After the collapse of the USSR, Donetsk's future looked precarious with its 50 mines unprofitable and miners had to fight closures throughout the 1990s before the industry was revived.

Donetsk has always been powered by coal and other industry – led by steel – has built around it. Even now there are 17 coal mines and five steel mills yet in recent years, following the economic downturn that followed the fall of the Soviet Union, the city has diversified into engineering and food production.

• Anatoliy Solovyanenko, opera singer (1932-1999) – Ukraine's 'Silver Voice', a tenor who lends his name to Donetsk Theatre of Opera and Ballet.

• Vasyl Stus, dissident poet (1938-1985) – human rights activist, he spent 23 years in detention for his democratic political convictions and his work was banned by the Soviet regime.

• Oleg Tverdovsky, ice hockey player (b1976) – 1996/97 NHL All-Star and two-time Stanley Cup winner with the New Jersey Devils (2003) and Carolina Hurricanes (2006).

• Lilia Podkopayeva, gymnast (b1978) – European, World and Olympic all-round champion in 1996, 'Lily Pod' is the only woman to execute an Arabian double front brani.

Once divided into two distinct parts – the industrial south and residential north – Donetsk is now set out in easy-to-navigate Soviet grid style, with the 10km vulytsya Artyoma dividing east and west. A wander along it is a good place to start exploring, starting with the Lenin Komsomol Park by the Donbass Arena with its stark socialist sculptures and excellent views of the strangely attractive terykony (slag heaps).

The area is also home to municipal stadium RSC Olimpiyskiy, fronted by a statue of six-time world pole vault champion Sergiy Bubka in familiar, start-of-run-up pose. FC Shakhtar Donetsk away games are often screened live further down vulytsya Artyoma by the Lenin statue, the supporters gathering in their hundreds to create a sea of orange, many wearing miners' hats. Indeed, there are constant references to Donetsk's carbon roots, be it a bas relief or statue of a miner offering a piece of coal to the heavens.

Fan zone: Shcherbakova Park
Donetsk's enormous 96,000m² fan zone, located close to the bus station, will feature three giant screens and will open for the duration of the tournament from 12.00 to 02.00 local time. It is free to enter and will broadcast all 31 matches live, though at other times there will be plenty of entertainment such as football skill tests, five-a-side pitches, live concerts and DJ sets, as well as offer a full range of food and beverages.

To and from

Donetsk International Airport is 8km north of the city centre and has daily flights to Kyiv, as well as regular services to Tel-Aviv, Vienna, Athens, Istanbul, Munich, Moscow and Larnaca. Just 1km away the Putylivskyi bus station has daily connections to Kharkiv (5.5 hours), Kyiv (12 hours) and Lviv (21.5 hours), though some actually start at the Main Railway Station, also north of the centre. There are direct trains to Kharkiv (from 5.5 hours) and Kyiv (12 hours).

Distances to other UEFA EURO 2012 venues
Kharkiv – 315km
Kyiv – 700km
Lviv – 1,175km
Warsaw – 1,465km
Poznan – 1,785km
Wroclaw – 1,750km
Gdansk – 1,810km

In and around
Donetsk is served by trams, trolleybuses and buses. The main routes run from 6.00 to 23.00, thereafter night services run once an hour though for major events the usual schedule is extended. Single journeys cost 1 UAH, and tickets can be bought after boarding. There are also marshrutkas, fixed-route minibuses, throughout the city.

Football was introduced to the Donbass region by the British employees of Donetsk's founding father, Welsh coal and steel magnate John Hughes.

The process of formalising ad hoc games began in 1911 with the creation of a side representing the metal works in Yuzivka (the former name for Donetsk, derived from Hughes). Two years later they became the first holders of the Donbass Cup and the game continued to grow until 1936 when the city's main footballing force, FC Shakhtar Donetsk, was founded.

They started life as Stakhanovets in honour of Oleksiy Stakhanov, a local coal miner whose productivity was legendary. They were firmly established as Shakhtar by the time they began challenging for honours, winning back-to-back USSR Cups in 1961 and 1962. FC Spartak Moskva denied them a unique treble, and after twice finishing Soviet Top League runners-up in the 1970s the Pitmen added to their silverware with further cup triumphs in 1980 and 1983.

Contenders during the Soviet era, Shakhtar have eaten into FC Dynamo Kyiv's monopoly since independence, the Donetsk outfit winning six titles and seven cups. They claimed the UEFA Cup in 2009 and reached the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, achievements that leave FC Metalurh Donetsk – the city's other top-flight team, founded only in 1995 – in the shade. FC Olimpik Donetsk are in the second division.

Yet Shakhtar dominate the city's footballing landscape and their away games are often screened live on vulytsya Artyoma, by the Lenin statue. The supporters gather in their hundreds to create a sea of orange, many wearing miners' hats.

Footballing alumni
Shakhtar's players have always been drawn from outside the city, near and far, but there have been a few homegrown stars. The Pitmen's all-time top scorer, Andriy Vorobey, hails from the city, as do fellow former internationals Oleksiy Byelik, Valeriy Kriventsov, Serhiy Scherbakov and Dmytro Shutkov. Oleg Oshenkov guided Shakhtar to USSR Cup wins in 1961 and 1962, while Yuriy Degterev and Viktor Zvyagintsev starred for the side in the 1970s.

Did you know?
When Shakhtar became the last winners of the UEFA Cup in 2008/09, defeating SV Werder Bremen 2-1 in the final, three Ukrainian sides reached the last 16. Dynamo beat FC Metalist Kharkiv but succumbed to Shakhtar in the semi-finals.

Donetsk has been home to Serhiy Bubka, the six-time world pole vault champion who broke the world record no fewer than 35 times during his glittering career, since he was 15. Bubka's powerful frame is captured on a statue near RSC Olimpiyskyi in familiar, start-of-run-up pose. Matches in tennis's Davis Cup also frequently take place in the city, home to an all-conquering American football side and top-flight basketball and handball teams. HC Donbass are national ice hockey champions.