The most important European club football game, the 2018 Champions League final will be played in Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv, just weeks before neighboring Russia hosts the World Cup. The executive committee of the UEFA confirmed that Kyiv’s 70,000-capacity Olympic Stadium will host its highest-profile club game on 26 May 2018. The venue was reconstructed prior to the 2012 European Championship, which Ukraine hosted jointly with Poland.
The venue's history
Originally called the Red Stadium, the arena first opened its doors in August 1923. As sports gained prominence in the Soviet Union, the authorities realized the need for rebuilding the stadium. The opening match was scheduled to be between Dynamo Kyiv and CBCA Moscow, however, on an opening day, the German army invaded the Soviet Union and the event was postponed. A few months later the Germans entered and occupied the city. Despite the harsh conditions, the stadium officially opened on 12 July 1942. When the Germans retreated one year later, it got heavily damaged and it took a year for the stadium to be repaired. On the 25 June 1944, it was reopened with the match that was originally planned to be played in 1941. The Republic Stadium was then enlarged in 1966-1967, while another major reconstruction was made between 1978 and 1980. In 1999, the arena was renovated again.
Reconstruction of the legendary arena
The new plan of the arena was designed by von Gerkan and Marg & Partners, an international architectural corporation based in Hamburg, Germany. The previous projects of the firm include Berlin’s Railway Station, Moscow’s VTB Arena and Poland’s National Stadium in Warsaw. The stadium was shuttered in December 2008 for major repairs that included demolition and rebuilding of the lower tier, construction of a 13-story building adjacent to the venue, and addition of a new roof that now covers the entire seating area. The reconstruction project transformed the arena into an international level multinational sports venue, which is now spread across an area of 145,741 m2. The cost of the entire project was over $470 million.
Comparison to other notable European stadiums
In terms of its seating capacity, the Kyiv Olympic Stadium is among the 20 largest in Europe. With a total of 70,050 seats available to fans, the arena is larger than such remarkable sites as Liverpool's Anfield (54,074), Manchester's Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City FC (55,097), London's Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal FC (59,867), as well as the Olympic Stadium constructed prior to the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics (60,000). It should be noted that the latter hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics athletics tournament offering up to 80,000 seats. The venue is currently the home ground for the Premier League side West Ham United Football Club.
2011 Opening Ceremony
Unfortunately for Ukrainian football fans, professional teams do not play official games every day. This means that such venue as massive and comfortable as the Olympic stadium becomes available for other events. Since 2012, the arena has deservedly become the country’s primary entertainment venue. The Colombian pop singer Shakira headlined the show that officially opened the stadium in October 2011. At the time, the show’s director admitted that Shakira could have been replaced by the pop band The Black Eyed Peas, or the legendary Californian rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers. However, the show became a very memorable moment for those who attended, especially as it was followed by an extremely entertaining game between the national teams of Ukraine and Germany. Despite its friendly status, the match turned out to be highly competitive, as the Ukrainian side scored three goals by halftime and was up 3:1 going into the second half. The German team managed to equalize and eventually draw the game at 3:3, but fans were grateful for the opportunity to see such a show and football analysts got something to be hopeful about, given the strong performance of the young Ukrainian squad.
Live Music Events
Speaking of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the band discovered the newly-built state-of-the-art arena a little later – in the summer of 2012. On that hot summer day, the band became part of what many music enthusiasts still believe to be the greatest concert in Ukrainian history, as they joined forces with the British rockers Kasabian and the coming-of-age indie prodigies The Vaccines. Since then, a number of worldwide superstars have performed at the Olympic stadium – like Madonna, George Michael, Depeche Mode (twice) and Muse. However, a record level of attendance was observed on 16 June 2016, when very own Okean El’zy attracted a mind-blowing crowd of close to 100,000 people.
Rather soon, the list will include other musicians of the top echelon making their debut performance in Ukraine. Traditionally, the main live music events take place over the summer – at the end of June, the Olympic stadium will host the BeLive festival headlined by the Australian godfather of funk Jamiroquai. Imagine Dragons, perhaps one of the hottest shows in pop music nowadays will take on the stage in late August. That show has already sold out though.
Apart from the live music performances, the arena hosts a great variety of events. Marathons, half-marathons and other running tournaments are held on a regular basis here. The venue’s agenda for the summer also includes the Fontegro international congress of chefs and the Kyiv Music Days, a major event for professionals engaged in the music and concert industry.
Lastly, have a look at the wonderful clip catching the life of the Ukrainian capital from bird's eye view: