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Eurovision goes to Kyiv – Political warfare will return to Odessa

September 9, 2016

A few weeks ago an entry appeared noting the facade of political comradery between Mayor Trukhanov and Governor Saakashvili and their attempt to present a united and stable political front when wooing decision makers to award the Eurovision contest to Odessa.

The undeclared, but nevertheless mutual feeling of both men was that after Odessa missed out on the European football championships in 2012 (despite building a brand new stadium) meant that Odessa was owed the hosting rights to a large international event.

The fact that the Chermomoretz stadium is situated in Park Shevchenko with a single access road and therefore simply failed to meet the minimum safety demands of the footballing authorities of two access/egress roads is not a particularly well known.  That it is not well known therefore means it is not understood as a reason why Odessa was refused Euro 2012 so far as the local constituency is concerned.

(It is even less known that (former Mayor) Eduard Gurvitz proposed creating tunnel to and from the stadium under Shevchenko Park to address the access/egress issue – a proposal that went nowhere.)

Whether or not the Eurovision organisers also require two entry/egress routes from any hosting venue is beyond the knowledge of this blog – maybe they do, maybe they don’t.  Nevertheless the only venue in Odessa large enough to host tens of thousands of “Eurovisioners”, TV crews, presenters, commentators etc is the Chernomoretz stadium – which is also open air and would therefore require a roof to insure those attending remain dry during early May.

New Odessa airport terminal

New Odessa airport terminal

The new airport terminal, which has taken years to get to its existing state, is months from completion even if the will and cash is found to complete it – and it is a terminal without any runway dedicated or connected to it.  The runway that exists naturally leads directly to the existing terminal (which will apparently eventually be “mothballed”).

Indeed when Governor Saakashvili first arrived in Odessa, one of the first things he muted was opening an entirely new Odessa airport, far from the existing one.  It is a prospect that has not entirely died a death with US interest in an entirely new air hub.  There is indeed a case for a passenger and freight air hub to be made.

That the city would have coped with accommodation demands, and found thousands of English speaking volunteers, done “enough” for disabled ablutions and access etc is not in doubt.  It caters for a million and more tourists each year and therefore it would have coped – and coped fairly well with all such matters if it had been successful.  The political and societal will existed in sufficient quantity to insure success.

9th September witnessed the decision makers award the hosting rights to Kyiv – a city that has previously hosted Eurovision in 2005.  The committee charged with making the decision voted 19 in favour of Kyiv and 2 for Odessa.  A very clear and unambiguous vote.  No doubt finances and (existing/lack of) infrastructure had much to do with the outcome.

The outcome of the decision will have repercussions of course.

As the vast majority of people from Odessa are oblivious as to why the city was denied the 2012 football tournament, this will appear to be yet another snub by Kyiv.  No more and no less.

It will portray, not only to those in Odessa but also all provinces, that major international events always go to Kyiv and thus decentralisation is something that is a selective issue (and in truth it is, as the genuine reasons Odessa did not get Euro 2012 display).  By extension it will give the perception that lacking infrastructure and/or infrastructure development will never arrive in the provinces when there is no apparent desire or incentive to take the world beyond Kyiv (or the war in Donbas) as far as central authorities are concerned.

There is now no need for Governor Saakashvili or Mayor Trukhanov to continue with their facade of political unity.  The open political warfare that saw a Eurovision inspired armistice begin a few weeks ago can now recommence – and undoubtedly will in earnest.

The parliamentarians of Odessa attempting to unseat Governor Saakashvili will actively return to that cause.

The 100 Verkhovna Rada parliamentarians (not one of the sixteen from Odessa) that have signed a resolution to remove Mayor Trukhanov will be joined by yet more colleagues.

In short open political warfare on all fronts both in and toward Odessa can now recommence without the necessary (albeit temporary) truce hosting Eurovision would have brought.

There may soon be a Waterloo moment in Odessa, but it will have nothing to do with Eurovision and everything to do with politics.

Will those that govern have the sense to explain why Eurovision didn’t come to Odessa and attempt to correct public perceptions – or will they do as they did for Euro 2012 and leave faulty perceptions to grow in fertile conspiratorial soil?

Who will emerge victorious from any political Waterloo?

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