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Correspondent 38

Lots of Football, Election Action Nearing

Football fans in Kyiv have a lot to look forward to in the coming months, if only they’re willing to open their pocket books. UEFA last week announced the composition of the 8 four-team groups for the Champions League group stage, which has put local champions Dynamo Kyiv in a tight group along with English champions Manchester United (visiting Oct. 23), Italian runners up AS Roma (Nov. 27) and Sporting Lisbon of Portugal (Oct. 2). For fans of the national side, the Blue and Yellow will host Italy in a crucial Euro 2008 qualifier on Sept. 12 and then France on Nov. 21, both at Olympic Stadium (there’ll also be a home match Oct. 17 vs. lowly Faeroe Islands, but that’s likely to be played outside the capital).

Normally, football tickets in Kyiv are easy to get a hold of – the more expensive ones anyway, which used to run around Hr 80 ($16) in seats so close to some of Ukraine’s top officials that you’d almost swear you were temporarily a member of the old politburo. That price was standard for either Champions League matches (tickets for which in some European cities start at about double that) or international matches. That, however, has quickly changed.

UEFA executives, as part of their ongoing review of changes and modernizations to Ukraine’s football stadiums (what changes, you ask? That’s kind of the point here), have obviously become frustrated with the ongoing problems associated with development next to Olympic Stadium and the lack of any upgrades yet begun to the facility, so football’s European governing body has forced Ukrainian Football Federation officials to halve the number of seats sold for all future matches until the stadium and its surroundings meet European levels of safety and security. To the average football fan, this means tickets have essentially doubled overnight (from Hr 100 to Hr 150). Don’t worry about seeing the rowdies before this game – there won’t be many (given that they won’t have enough money for vodka AND a game ticket now).

Some random thoughts about Kyiv dining

Concord remains one of the finest restaurants in the country. My girlfriend and I celebrated our 2-year anniversary there last weekend and had a marvelous time: atmosphere, service, amazing food and wine. A great restaurant for any occasion… If heading to the Uzviz to shop and feeling hungry, check out Parmezan, a new Italian eatery there that opened a year ago. The food is great, if pricey. Make sure to head upstairs rather than down, though… Hidden gem of the week: Chinese restaurant Du Long, found off the street on Taras Shevchenko Blvd. near the Hotel Express. This little nook serves up excellent Chinese dishes for cheap and has even won a Kyiv Post reader award for its Kung Pao chicken… Finally, if in the mood for pizza, Vesuvio’s Pizza celebrates its 15th anniversary this year and they’re giving a 15% discount on orders for a limited time. Contact details for all but Du Long can be found on the Go2Kiev Food and Drinks list on the main page.

Clean election? Who’d have thought?!

We’re into the final weeks before the big Sept. 30 parliamentary elections and so far I’ve noticed a few things, all of which can reasonably be construed as evidence that the political powers that be are behaving themselves.

First, there are few if any paper posters cluttering the lamp posts, fences, walls and billboards of city streets (at least here in the capital) and far fewer parties campaigning than last time. That’s made left the city far cleaner than in past years, thankfully. Second, and as a corollary to my first point, all the ads are now either on TV or big billboards. The messages are as lame as ever (actually, there are no messages – mostly just faces, cheap slogans and no platforms), but it’s a cleaner, more civilized way to campaign. Finally, despite my assumptions that this will be a cleaner campaign, it’s hard to say whether it will turn out that way in the end. Many local observer missions haven’t the money to fund election observers this time around, meaning that fraud could take place again and the West would be hard-pressed to document any of it. Scary thought.

Andriy Shevchenko and Team Ukraine will take on Italy at Olympic Stadium on Sept. 12. (photo www.bbc.co.uk)


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