Apart from watching the odd match with locals in makeshift tent-bars along the seaside, I mostly spent June sunbathing on the Crimean coast far away from Euro 2012.
On retuning to Kiev, an amazing party atmosphere full of excitement greeted me. The city centre has been transformed into a football fan zone. Carlsberg beer tents, fanzone souvenir stalls, and Massive TV screens line Khreshchatyk, leading to a big stage in Maidan Nezalezhnosti.
At every match we all pile in, beer at hand and shout and yell as the European teams kick around a ball. It’s become our local hang out spot, as if it had always been there, bringing football mania to the heart of Kiev.
Yesterday was by far one of the most memorable evenings of Euro 2012. This time however it wasn’t a match, but a free 4-hour concert with Elton John and Queen that brought crowds pouring in. The whole of Khreshchatyk and Maidan Square was jam-packed with Ukrainians and football fans from around the world. The warm summer evening resonated with Elton’s vocals and piano notes. When night fell, Queen rocked on with their new leading man Adam Lambert.
Lovely weather, brilliant music, and a great mixture of people, created a surreal experience. The music legends wowed the audience bringing life and soul into the night. They performed especially to highlight the terrible AIDS situation in Ukraine.
The deadly virus is ravaging the country. The epidemic in Ukraine is the fastest growing in the world. There were 360,000 HIV positive people in 2011, the highest number in Europe. Less than one-fifth of HIV cases are given anti-retroviral treatment (ARVS), a shocking comparison to Rwanda and Botswana where 80% of patients receive ARVS.
Political instability, corruption, drug use, sexual transmission, lack of care, and the stigma attached to the disease all contribute to the dire state of things.
But there is some hope: HIV positive orphans are now allowed into orphanages and the chance of adoption, the first Ukrainian advocate group for Ukrainian AIDS patients was set up in 2010, and Elton John’s and Elena Pinchuk’s anti-AIDS foundations have teamed up to help combat the virus.
The concert was a ray of light, giving a voice to the thousands of Ukrainian AIDS victims suffering in silence.