ISSN 2330-717X

St Petersburg Prepares To Hold UEFA EURO 2020 Matches

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Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city, has prepared all the necessary infrastructure and facilities for hosting UEFA Euro Cup 2020 matches this June and through July, according information emerging from the office of City Governor Alexander Beglov. 

The organizers assured that they would try to do everything to make the tournament as safe as possible. For those who have purchased tickets for football matches, it is enough to obtain a FAN ID. But before entering Russian territory, they will need to pass a coronavirus test. Fans who come to Russia for the European Championship will be able to stay in the country until July 12. 

In addition to maintaining all the required security measures during the tournament, the City Administration also assured that the matches would be organized with strict adherence to safety measures for preventing the spread of the coronavirus. These measures worked out by the steering committee within the requirements set by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

“As far as general security is concerned, our law enforcement services work very well. They will have a command center directly at the stadium,” Alexander Beglov told local Russian media late May. “Training is under way, and we have the understanding of what to do and how it should be done. We have the experience of hosting various tournaments.” 

In and around St. Petersburg, the venue for the matches, the playing fields have been prepared. “We have the main arena, and we have prepared three more venues – the Petrovsky and Turbostroitel stadiums, and the facility in Zelenogorsk, where teams will train. There will be fan-zones on the Konyushennaya Square and the Palace Square. Besides, another fan zone will be set up near the Yubileyny (Sports Palace),” he said. “All the necessary infrastructure is ready.” 

In March last year, UEFA announced a decision to postpone the 2020 UEFA Euro Cup for exactly one year as a preventive measure against the ongoing global spread of the novel coronavirus. 

St. Petersburg was among the 12 cities initially proposed in Europe to host the European championship’s matches. It was granted the right to host three group stage matches and one of the quarterfinals of the UEFA Euro Cup. This was after Dublin (Ireland) and Bilbao (Spain) pulled out from the organization of the European football games citing anti-COVID-19 measures. 

Overall, Russia’s second-largest city is scheduled to host the following matches: Belgium vs Russia (June 12), Poland vs Slovakia (June 14), Finland vs Russia (June 16), Sweden vs Slovakia (June 18), Finland vs Belgium (June 21), Sweden vs Poland (June 23) and a quarterfinal on July 2. 

According to RIA Novosti report, Head of the Government of the Russian Federation, Mikhail Mishustin, said that foreign fans would not need Russian visas to attend the European Football Championship in St. Petersburg, and that corresponding order was already signed. In addition, UEFA official representatives, staff involved in the preparation and holding of the tournament, athletes and volunteers will get entry documents under the simplified procedure. 

In order to attract fans as it was during the FIFA matches, Russia’s diplomatic missions abroad have started informing potential fans of the procedure for entering the Russian Federation during the Championships, specifically, how to obtain personal spectator cards or FAN IDs. 

Russia’s diplomatic missions abroad have received FAN ID samples and related pamphlets for fans. FAN IDs allow their holders to enter the Russian Federation multiple times visa-free from May 29, through July 2, and to exit from the Russian Federation multiple times. The visa are provided exclusively free of charge, that is without any payment of fees, from May 29 through July 12, 2021. 

The Foreign Ministry has instructed Russia’s diplomatic missions abroad to issue high-priority visas to media representatives, participants in sporting events and certain other categories of foreign citizens planning to take part in the Championships. 

During the weekly media briefing, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova discussed the situation about electronic visas to Russia. “It began with the FIFA World Cup. When football lovers, tourists and fans came to Russia despite spooky stories about Russia in Western media, they were shocked by the difference between what they had read and what they actually saw. They saw that our country is truly interesting, wonderful and spectacular,” she said at the briefing. 

She, however, recalled how many people wanted to stay here longer and extended their visas and how many wanted to return. It was at that time that discussions began on the need to take relevant efforts to attract sport fans, and change the negative social attitudes and image among foreigners. 

The World Cup has left an indelible impression on the memory of many foreign fans who arrived in the country from all over the world. “I think the point here is not about our response to something, but about the desire to show what we really are, our country and give people an opportunity to decide for themselves,” explained Zakharova. 

Significant to recall here that at the end of the last FIFA World Cup, President Vladimir Putin said: “We prepared responsibly for this major event and did our best so that fans could immerse themselves in the atmosphere of a magnificent football festival and, of course, enjoy their stay in Russia – open, hospitable, friendly Russia – and find new friends, new like-minded people.” 

FIFA World Cup also ran in summer, from June 14 to July 15, in ten (10) different cities in Russia. The foreign fans who received Fan IDs and purchased tickets for the matches went to Russia without visas. After the World Cup, President Putin declared that the Fan ID holders would have the right to visit repeatedly visa-free until the end of that year. 

UEFA Euro Cup is set in 11 cities, namely in London (England), Munich (Germany), Rome (Italy), Baku (Azerbaijan), Saint Petersburg (Russia), Bucharest (Romania), Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Budapest (Hungary), Glasgow (Scotland), Copenhagen (Denmark) and Seville (Spain). The European Championship 2020, for the first time, played in different countries. The tournament includes 12 cities in honor of the anniversary of the competition. The European Championship in 2020 marked 60 years.

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

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