The flying saucer has landed near the centre of Donetsk to make the region of fire and coal famous. The locals call it “brilliant”, and its surrounding are widely known as a local “Shangri-La”. Let’s have a close look at Donbass Arena.
Before we enter the stand of Donbass Arena, let’s go back to the 1990s. In 1995, Rinat Akhmetov becomes the president of Shakhtar Donetsk football club. He immediately grows wealthy through investments in heavy industry, from which the club benefits. Four years later, Akhmetov is watching a football match in Paris Stade de France. He is bewitched by the atmosphere of the gigantic stadium with all-seater capacity of 80 thousand. A thought lingers on in the businessman’s head: “My club deserves a real stadium too!” But this kind of investment requires something more, like an international event that will make the stadium famous around the world. Those who think that Akhmetov waited with his decision on building a stadium until granting Poland and Ukraine the title of the host of Euro 2012 are mistaken. The construction works had been in progress for over a year at that moment. Was it Akhmetov’s instinct for business?
The president spares no expense, so the construction works are model. Jay Parish, an English architect, is responsible for the project. He is the man behind the stadiums of Manchester City and Bayern Monachium. Thanks to Parish, the stadium is a harmonious part of the hilly landscape of Donetsk. The Turkish company ENKA, with 50 years of experience in building such facilities, is responsible for the construction works. No Ukrainian company would face up to such a challenge. The company is building the stand right on time, while German companies are busy with constructing the iron roof. 52 thousand seats made in Australia are being installed. The lighting is provided by Dutch Philips, while the turf is of Slovakian origin. Only the metal construction parts were produced in Ukraine, in Akhmetov’s factories.
The stadium constructed for EUR 300 million has already become a symbol of Donetsk. The opening of it was a great event itself. On 29 August 2009, on miners’ holiday, the gates are opened for the excited citizens. Beyonce’s performnance is a unique experience for the whole city. Donbass Arena becomes the first stadium that is ready for Euro 2012.
The stadium complies with all the norms and is among only 23 arenas in the world that have been given the status of “Elite” by UEFA. The stadium owes this to the sponsor. Only Akhmetov’s money was enough to cover such significant details as 30-year old trees from Bavaria which adorn the park around the stadium. On the inside, the stadium is designed just as well as on the outside. There are special ramps for the disabled and free WiFi (the cost of which was USD 21 million). The turf is heated, while in winter the construction of the stadium allows to keep the temperature 14 degrees higher than outside.
There is a prayer room next to the locker rooms and graffiti for the fans of Shakhtar. A mole is painted on the columns – it is a symbol of the club. The prices, however, are not high. One can see a match for UAH 15 (around EUR 1.5), eat a hamburger for UAH 16 and drink beer for UAH 8. During Euro 2012, however, the prices may be twice as high. Will it cool down the fans’ enthusiasm? No, because even an expensive hamburger will not change the fact that by entering Donbass Arena we move from the post-Soviet streets of Donetsk to another, exclusive world.
Author of the photos: Łukasz Grajewski
Translated by Marta Lityńska