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8:22 AM Saturday, August 19, 2017
Lifestyle
Eurovision Puts Kyiv in Europe's Spotlight
James Brooke
Chance to show 230 million Europeans modern, post-revolution Ukraine
image/svg+xml Kyiv Lutsk Rivne Zhytomyr Lviv Ternopil Khmelnytskyi Uzhgorod Chernivtsi Vinnytsia Chernigiv Sumy Kharkiv Poltava Cherkasy Kirovohrad Lugansk Dnipropetrovsk Donetsk Zaporizhzhia Mykolaiv Odesa Kherson Simferopol Sevastopol Ivano- Frankivsk

By Lee Reaney

KYIV – It costs a lot of money to host an event that draws 20,000 tourists and a worldwide television audience of 230 million. So, what’s in it for Kyiv?

“Improvements to infrastructure, awareness of a positive image of Ukraine and great emotions and memories of their time in Kyiv,” Pavlo Hrytsak, deputy head of Ukrainian state television, which oversees Eurovision 2017 in Kyiv, tells the UBJ.

Oleh Reznikov, Kyiv’s Deputy Mayor, adds city beautification, tourism spending, and jobs created locally for contest.

“We expect nearly $30 million return on [Kyiv’s] $24.3 million budgeted for the event,” he says in an interview. He predicts most of revenue will come from advertising and ticket sales.

Ukrainian Eurovision volunteers prepare to release balloons marking start of Eurovision events. (UNIAN/Vyacheslav Ratynskiy)

Tourists to Kyiv

For the first time since the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, large numbers of European tourists are expected to venture east from Lviv to Ukraine’s capital.

“We expect up to 20,000 tourists, with each spending up to $110 a day,” Hrytsak estimates.

Preparations have not been an easy.

Depressing European tourism here, Ukraine’s image is defined by war, corruption, and the the 2014-2015 economic depression.

Russia TV and tourists are boycotting the event, triggered by Ukraine’s ban on Russia’s contestant, Yuliya Samoylova, on grounds she illegally entered Crimea to perform there.

Ticket sales were plagued with problems and the organizing staff quit en masse in February.

Tourists Spend Dollars and Euros

But now, the city is putting on a show. And hoteliers, restaurateurs and shop staff are accommodating hosts.

If each tourist spends $110 day for a week, that represents an additional $15 million flowing into Kyiv’s businesses and hotels during the first two weeks in May.

Sam Sami, owner of Tiger Bills restaurant on Khreshchatyk, expects a big boost to business.

“It will be better than last year,” he tells the UBJ of the first half of May. “We expect 8,000 visitors over the two weeks, up from 3,500 last year.”

He says an average bill is $7.50 to $10.50. An extra 4,500 visitors, each with a $9 bill, means an extra $40,000 in income – in two weeks.

Kyiv’s Maidan Square, the scene of revolutionary barricades three years ago, now sports a major facelift and a Eurovision logo. The two-week contest culminates in finals Sat. May 13. (UNIAN/Aleksandr Sinitsa)

Pretty City

Kyiv is investing $26 million for improvements to infrastructure and city beautification.

Projects include:

  • Refurbishing three large buildings – including the Maidan’s Trade Unions Building set ablaze during the heaviest fighting of 2014;
  • A $9.25 million renovation of the Livoberezhna metro station and surrounding streets, next to the International Exhibition Center, site of the song contest;
  • Greening, including a cleanup of the river area and covering with bushes the pedestal for the old Vladimir Lenin statue;
  • Water taxi from Podol’s river station to Mykilska Slobidka, near the show center;
  • Adding fountains with lights and music Independence Square

The goal is to give the impression that Kyiv is a clean, modern European city.

“I encourage people to make selfies.” says Hrytsak.

Half of Europe Watching

Organizers are determined to change Ukraine’s image in the minds of 230 million fans, largely Europeans.

“It’s very important to show the world we are a peaceful nation”, said Reznikov. “And that we can organize this show, even during a hybrid war being waged against us”.

Sweden’s Ambassador Martin Hagstrom says: “Eurovision is a big thing in Sweden -- many Swedes will be coming here.”


More publicity for Eurovision in Kyiv: rising behind the city’s Filarmonia Hall, a friendship arch has a gap in its rainbow, created by rightwing protests over an apparent gay symbol rising over Ukraine’s capital. (UNIAN/Vladimir Gontar)

Any Publicity is Good Publicity?

Pre-show negative publicity may gin up additional interest in the festival.

From Britain, gaytimes.co.uk, claims that “the vast majority of traveling fans will identify as queer.”

To honor this year’s Eurovision theme of “Celebrate Diversity,” Kyiv is turning part of the battleship gray Soviet-era People’s Friendship Arch into a brightly-colored, LGBT-friendly rainbow, dubbing it the “Arch of Diversity.”

But on April 27, militants from nationalist Right Sector group demonstrated at the arch, halting work on recoloring, calling it ‘perverted symbolism.’ On Thursday, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, who lived for many years in Germany, announced a compromise. The gap in the unfinished rainbow will be closed with a traditional Ukrainian folk pattern.

Immediately, Reuters filed a dispatch, sending the news rocketing around the world and drawing new attention to what otherwise might simply be the 62nd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest

Ukraine has twice won the contest -- in 2004 with Ruslana Lyzhychko’s “Wild Dances” and last year with Crimean Tatar Jamala ballad “1944,” lamenting Stalin’s mass deportation of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia. That earned Ukraine the right to host this year’s competition.

Workshops, Festivals

The festival has organized cultural programs for visitors to complement Eurovision events – a FanZone on Sofiyevska Square, Eurovillage on Khreshchatyk Street, and the Euroclub at Parkovyy Center. Local restaurants are happily selling food and beer to visitors who have off nights from the main event.

Through workshops, festivals, and exhibitions across the city, Kyiv hopes guests will discover what the post-revolution Ukraine is really like. Visitors can hear modern music, learn about Ukrainian costumes and jewelry, or learn a traditional dance.

European Ukraine

“The idea is to create a feeling of a European Ukraine”, said Hrytsak. “We hope they will have new friends after coming here and take home some souvenirs.”

Reznikov, the deputy mayor, agreed, saying: “We hope our visitors begin to see that Kyiv residents are the same European citizens as in the rest of Europe.”


For comments or news tips, please contact UBJ Reporter Lee Reaney at lee.reaney@theubj.com.

Posted May 5, 2017

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