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Euro 2012: Interest rates in rapid decline after Poland exit

Fan zones deserted and politics mar events in Ukraine.

The fan zone in Warsaw has seen a decline in numbers.
The fan zone in Warsaw has seen a decline in numbers.

WARSAW // A few months ago it might have seemed the Sabat theatre group's greatest moment to play in the Warsaw city-centre fan zone, capacity 100,000, during Euro 2012.

They were banging out Ricky Martin's Livin' la Vida Loca in front of an arena roughly equal in size to four football pitches. But only a few dozen people were watching.

Less than a week after Poland's first-round exit, Euro 2012 is sliding off the front pages and organisers are desperately seeking ways to keep alive party zones that had seen three million visitors in less than three weeks.

Officials say 30,000 visited Warsaw's fan zone before and during the final game of the group stages in co-host Ukraine on Tuesday, down from 170,000 for Poland's loss to the Czechs last Saturday.

Workers in Gdansk and Warsaw say that numbers even during games have been minuscule for several days.

"The truth is that when Poland lost, everyone left in about 15 minutes flat, leaving their drinks behind them," said one of the women at a Coca-Cola stall in the fan zone. "It was almost like one of those Western scenes with tumbleweeds in the desert."

It is a problem Uefa faced in Austria and Switzerland and looked like a risk from the moment it awarded the tournament, for the second time running, to a pair of nations from outside of Europe's footballing elite.

The stadiums have been largely filled, in Poland, by a population excited at the arrival of Europe's finest players, athletes they rarely see due to the weakness of the domestic game; no Polish team has played in the Champions League group stages for 15 years. "We are being praised for the excellent organisation of Euro and its atmosphere," said Donald Tusk, the prime minister of Poland. "It is just too bad we dropped out, especially in view of the huge fan support we gave our side. The players did their best but they were not good enough."

Ukraine, desperately short of funds and still discussing another bailout with the International Monetary Fund, struggled more than did the European Union member Poland to build the infrastructure required by Uefa, and the tournament there has been marred by politics.

Empty seats, left open because of poor sight lines, according to Ukraine officials, have marked a number of the games and Western leaders have boycotted the tournament in protest at the jailing of the former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Efforts to keep the population enthusiastic were not helped by a controversial disallowed goal in Tuesday's defeat by England.

"Bravo Uefa, it was nice hosting the Euro with you," the popular daily newspaper Segodnya wrote on Wednesday.

In the Polish port of Gdansk, Monday's game between Croatia and cash-strapped Spain showed gaping holes in the stands.

"It is sad," said Michal Nowosad, a worker at one of the city's fan embassies. "Unfortunately, I think a lot of Poles will lose interest in the tournament now."

Michel Platini, the Uefa president, said Poland and Ukraine have "already won" because of the majors strides in infrastructure taken ahead of Euro 2012.

Not everyone is convinced, particularly those at the secondary venues for whom the tournament ended after the group stage.

"This tournament has been a disaster for a lot of businesses," the Wroclaw taxi driver Wojciech Kaminski said. "What was the point of spending all this money for just three games?"