Good news for Daniel Sturridge, who has made it to Euro 2012 afterall albeit only in 50ft high poster form. Passengerstravelling west along the tramlines of Wroclaw towards the city’s40,000 capacity stadium are being treated to the spectacle ofEngland’s stand-by forward moodily lit, jaw set posed in thecolours of Team Hyundai alongside Iker Casillas, Karim Benzema andLukas Podolski, all of whom are also here in person on otherbusiness. The image of the vast, looming, two dimensional Sturridge onlyadds to the slight sense of tremulous unreality. After five yearsof preparation Wroclaw, Poland’s fourth largest city, is stillawaiting its first draught of Euro 2012 fever. As Krakow surgeswith the conflicting tides of migrant fan-invasion 140 miles to theeast, Wroclaw has been preparing the ground for its own maraudingvisitors ahead of Russia v Czech Republic on opening nightonFriday. Neodymium Block Magnets
The empty fan zone, with its Live Aid-scale stage andstockpiled reservoirs of branded lager, is already installedbeneath the pastel facade of the old town. Vast awnings depictingthe familiar figure of the universal fan-dufus face painted,eyes glazed, tricolour mohican in place have been slapped upacross office block facades like a cajoling Stalinist depiction ofthe ideal Euro ball consumer. All that is missing is a littleactual football mania, the hordes of thirsty Czechs expected toappear from across the border ahead of Friday’s quietly nurturedgrudge match (this is eastern Europe: every match is a grudgematch). If Wroclaw seems a little wary in advance this is understandable.Driven by the sponsorial and administrative conjoining that demandsthe creation of this portable Euro-environment every four years,there has been much critical scrutiny of the host cities. MichelPlatini recently described the decision to award the finals toPoland and Ukraine as “brave”. Arc NdFeB Magnets
He said: “The decision turned out tobe slightly rash in the context of the crisis that struck the worldtwo years later. We therefore spent a long time discussing all theoptions open to us with the associations and governments concerned.The most logical option quickly became obvious to us all: to honourthe trust that we had placed in Poland and Ukraine in 2007.” Ah, yes: trust. For the hosts and Uefa this is as much aboutdelivering an effective tournament periphery, an infrastructureworthy of the grandiose contractual relationships that support thissporting behemoth. And so, regrettably given its own brewingtradition, central Wroclaw has duly become Carlsberg-town, withlogo bearing awnings plastered over almost every amenable cafe.Inside the fan zone itself the Carlsberg taps scroll away flanked as though in pointed comment on its own branded yellow fizz by rows of portable toilets, the basic machinery of imminentalcoholic havoc. The fan zone was first introduced with great success at the 2006World Cup in Germany as a means of luring and then stewardingmigrant fans. China Neodymium Bar Magnets
At Euro 2008 and here it has endured, in part as anoverspill area in cities where stadium capacity is on the smallside. And more urgently as a means of funnelling effectively thetourist spend, a balm to sponsors, an aide to municipal planning,and the most visible monument to the commercial co opting of thebasic notion of being a football supporter. Beyond it Wroclaw is well-equipped to provide its ownentertainment, but this is also a hard-drinking town localstag-do attractions include the notorious Steak And Tits and ifthe function of the fan zone has often been to protect locals fromsupporters, the reverse might also be true. By 9pm on Wednesday thetown centre had staged two rather desultory drunken fights, whilethe cobbled squares brought forth an apparently endless successionof women curtly promoting the local flesh pots (“Sir.
Beststripping club in town”). Out of town, down Sturridge Boulevard towards the newly builtMunicipal Stadium, the highway and tram stops have been tarted up,a thin purple line of corporate makeover takes you to the splendidstadium stop itself, roofed with its own swooping concrete quiff.It is here that the only real object of interest centres, within anarena that from a distance resembles a gauze-draped oval cementrefinery but which will on Friday night be lit spectacularly withthe colours of the Czech Republic and Russia. Platini may have had his doubts but Wroclaw appears to haveresponded with dutiful attention to detail, recreating within theheart of this sleepy central European city another ersatz stage forUefa’s travelling corporate shindig. The much touted “carnival offootball” approved beverage suppliers only within official fanzone is just about ready to begin.