Ukraine bade a fond farewell to UEFA EURO 2012 on Sunday night as Kyiv staged the final, but, as our city reporter reveals, the city has enjoyed being at the heart of Europe.
Article top media content
From the Swedish campers who flooded to Trukhanov Island to the Spanish and Italian fans who flocked to the Olympic Stadium for the final, everyone loved staying in Kyiv, and the Ukrainian capital loved having so many guests.
Spain's 4-0 win against Italy on Sunday was the city's fifth and final UEFA EURO 2012 game, but the colour the visiting fans brought to the city may have impressed locals more than the football. "I have never seen so many visitors in Kyiv at one time," said 74-year-old Kyivan Andriy Karpar, a regular at the Olympic Stadium and the fan zone on Maidan Nezalezhnosti throughout the tournament. "It was great to see their enthusiasm for our city. Knowing that our country has made a good impression warms the soul. It was a great opportunity to show the world that we are worthy of attention."
Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) president Grigoriy Surkis sensed that delight on the streets, especially when it came his own national team, telling UEFA.com: "People have come together around the national team, and were supporting them all over the country, which spreads nearly 1,500km from west to east. As well as that feeling of pride in our team, there has also been the natural desire to show the world that we are good hosts for this feast, to show the world Slavic hospitality and a warm welcome, and to show Ukraine's real face to the world."
The first major final tournament to be held in this region proved to be a big success, and Surkis added: "I'm proud that such a large-scale, global competition has been held in eastern Europe, and that it has not just been decent but might be remembered as one of the best, the most exciting in the history of the European Championships. I'm proud that my countrymen's efforts have been appreciated in the international community, and particularly by the UEFA management. UEFA President Michel Platini said during the tournament that Ukraine and Poland can already consider themselves as the winners."
The streets of Kyiv are emptying this morning, with the capital ready to put the celebrations behind them, but Surkis is glad to say that UEFA EURO 2012 will leave more than just memories behind. "There are new airports, hotels, train stations and roads have been modernised, all as a result of hosting EURO 2012 during a period which they have called the 'Five-Year Renaissance' in Ukraine," he said.
"But the main thing for me is the understanding that we Ukrainians are Europeans just like the Portuguese, the Poles, the Austrians and the Swiss, and all of our other visitors, and that we deserve our place in the European family of nations. This mental sea change may be the most important lasting legacy for Ukrainians."