Steady progress has been made since Boris Kolesnikov, not pictured, the Ukrainian deputy prime minister, took over the complete responsibility for organising Euro 2012.
Steady progress has been made since Boris Kolesnikov, not pictured, the Ukrainian deputy prime minister, took over the complete responsibility for organising Euro 2012.

Ukraine keeps it together



For a moment, everything seemed perfect. Gianni Infantino, the general secretary of Uefa, European football's governing body, smiled benignly and confirmed that, after all the doubts, all the questions about infrastructure, Ukraine would remain as co-host of Euro 2012 with Poland.

He hailed the two men who had overseen the surge in construction and development as heroes. Suddenly, Hryhoriy Surkis, the president of the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU), and Boris Kolesnikov, the Ukrainian deputy prime minister, with responsibility for Euro 2102, became, to the Ukrainian press at least, Super-Hryhoriy and Super-Boris. They accepted Infantino's plaudits, posed for pictures and shook the requisite number of hands and then, as soon as he had left, got on with the business that has occupied them for most of the past decade, fighting with each other.

On Monday, Uefa rubber-stamped the provisional schedule for Euro 2012, reiterating that despite all the problems, half the tournament will still be held in Ukraine and that Kiev will host the final. But while Ukraine breathes a sigh of relief that their stadia and airports at last look like making it through inspections, a host of other problems remain, not least the relationship between Surkis and Kolesnikov.

Kolesnikov used to be vice-president of Shakhtar Donetsk. Surkis used to be president of Dynamo Kiev, a post now held by his younger brother, Ihor. They are natural rivals, representing not merely the two biggest clubs in the country, but also two of the biggest groups of oligarchs. Euro 2012, like Ukrainian football as a whole, like Ukraine as a whole, has become a negotiation between those competing power blocs.

Under the presidency of the elder Surkis, Dynamo were suspended from European competition for a year after Lopez Nieto, a Spanish referee, reported an attempt to bribe him with two fur coats ahead of a Champions League tie in 1995, an incident Kolesnikov used to bring up at every opportunity. "Surkis," he once said, "personifies the shame of our football." Yet five years after that ban, Surkis was elected president of the FFU. He is now serving his third term. In some ways he has been very successful: he has stimulated investment into academies, something to which Ukraine's recent achievements in youth football can probably be attributed.

But his time in charge has been characterised by repeated claims from rival club owners he manipulated referees in favour of Dynamo. He seemed to be facing a vote of no confidence when Uefa announced in April 2007 Ukraine would co-host Euro 2012, a staggering coup that instantly boosted Surkis's popularity and credibility, and pretty much left him fireproof until at least the next elections after the tournament in 2012.

But then, in April this year, Kolesnikov was made vice-president and given governmental responsibility for the championship. He immediately stripped Surkis of any real economic influence over Euro 2012 and limited his role to a symbolic one, comprising little more than welcoming Uefa delegates. While having the two heads at each others' throats clearly is not ideal, Kolesnikov's seizure of control has helped.

"According to Euro 2012 programme, the Federation has only to test the stadiums and must not poke its nose into other affairs," Markiyan Lubkivskyi, the Ukraine Euro 2012 director, said. "The centralisation of power has drastically changed the situation for the better. After some battles for power we have only one centre of decision making and that is the most important thing when bringing those decisions to life."

Progress, at last, is being made, particularly in Lviv where both the new airport and the stadium had been behind schedule. Having inspected both sites, Infantino pronounced himself both "surprised" and "optimistic". The stadium in Kiev, which will host the final, is back on track, with Jitess Arquissandash, the Portuguese project manager who was appointed in April, saying three years' work had been done in the six months since he took over and that, if construction continues at the present rate, the stadium will be complete by next June.

In both Donetsk and Kharkiv, the stadiums are already in use; the new air terminal in Donetsk should be operational early next year, while Kharkiv's was opened in August. Hotels are another issue, but they are far less pressing. As concerns over the infrastructure recede, though, other problems rise up. This season has seen an unprecedented rise in incidents of hooliganism, which had never previously been much of a problem in Ukraine.

In Dnipropetrovsk, a linesman and a Metalist Kharkiv player were injured when Dnipro fans reacted to a late decision to disallow a home goal by hurling missiles on to the pitch. Pierluigi Collina, who has overseen refereeing in Ukraine since July, was appalled. "I can't accept what I saw," he said. "A beautiful day was spoiled by barbarians. "First of all, numerous fires were lit in the section where families sit with their children, then a bottle hit the linesman and left him with blood pouring from his face. This must not happen again. Nobody has the right to threaten the life of fans, referees or players."

That was only one incident among many. After Metalist had lost at home to Shakhtar, for instance, the Shakhtar coach was pelted with stones. "It's incredible," said Andriy Pyatov, the Shakhtar goalkeeper. "There were police officers two metres from the bus and they didn't react against the mob. One of the policemen even hit our bus with his fist for effect." Lubkivskyi acknowledges that this is a major concern.

"We have to pay special attention to these incidents," he said. "Especially with regard to the police who work on the football matches." The problem is heightened by the rise of the far right. When Volyn Lutsk played Arsenal Kyiv at the Victor Bannikov Stadium, around 300 metres from the FFU headquarters in the capital, away fans unveiled a banner celebrating the Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler, the Fuhrer's personal bodyguard. Stadium security did nothing to remove it.

In Lviv, Karpaty ultras directed Nazi salutes at a group of Borussia Dortmund fans who were relaxing in a bar the night before their Europa League meeting last month. The Germans responded by throwing bottles at them and a street fight broke out that was only quelled by the arrival of riot police. Stewards then had to take down Nazi banners in the stadium before the game could kick off. On the pitch, the Ukrainian game has been hit by allegations of match-fixing.

It has been generally accepted for at least a decade that a number of games in the top flight were fixed, but matters came to a head in 2008 when Petro Dyminskyi, the president of Karpaty Lviv, learned that a number of his players had sold a game to Metalist for US$110,000 (Dh403,700). He called Serhiy Laschenkov, the Moldovan midfielder, to his office, and questioned him about suggestions he had been the intermediary between Karpaty's players and Metalist's deputy general director Yevhen Krasnikov.

Laschenkov confessed, not realising Dyminskyi was secretly videoing their interview. Dyminskyi then used the tapes to force the guilty players into written declarations, which he in turn used to avoid paying them salaries or bonuses. In June last year, one of those players, Volodymyr Fedoriv, complained to the FFU's Disciplinary Committee that Karpaty had failed to pay him. The FFU found for the player, and imposed a transfer embargo on Karpaty. In January, Karpaty hit back by handing over the incriminating DVD to Alexander Bandurko, the FFU's vice-president.

The FFU, demonstrating rare initiative, took the case to its Committee of Fair-play and Ethics. In August, the case of match-fixing was deemed proven, and both clubs were awarded technical defeats for the game in question, both were fined $25,000, and each had nine points deducted. Krasnikov and Laschenkov were banned from football for life, Dyminskyi was suspended for 12 months, and 18 Karpaty players were fined.

That, though, was not the end of it, as Miron Markevich, the coach of the Ukraine national team, who was also the coach of Metalist, resigned, believing the points deduction to have been designed to help Dynamo Kiev in their battle with Metalist for Champions League qualification. "I've worked in the Ukrainian football for more than 27 years," Markevich said. "Nobody can surprise me. Yet all in a flash it has become very honest and respectable and only in Metalist are there any bad boys. They must clear themselves from dirt first and only after that punish the others."

That the problem stretches far wider than just Metalist and Karpaty was acknowledged by Vitaliy Danilov, a former president of FK Kharkiv and now the president of the Ukrainian Premier League. "I know which referees take bribes," he said. "I even know how their schemes work. "People approach the referee offering a certain amount of money and the referee tries to increase it by telling them that the other side has already offered more."

The infrastructure may be on track, but Ukraine is facing a host of other problems. That perfect moment with Infantino looks increasingly illusory.

KIEV
The rebuilt Olympic Stadium promises to be spectacular, a worthy stage for the Euro 2012 final, but costs have risen from US$278million (Dh1.021 billion) to $380m. The biggest problem, Kolesnikov says, is its location in the centre of the city. "That decision to reconstruct the old stadium was a mistake of my predecessors," he said.

DONETSK
The 51,540-capacity Donbass-Arena is one of the best venues in Europe, and has been operational for a year. Now the priority is to finish the airport. "There is no problem with building of the new air terminal," insisted Alexander Lukyanchenko, the mayor of Donetsk. "We plan to finish it in the first quarter of the year 2011." Hotels and amenities remain an issue.

KHARKIV
The 35,721-capacity Metalist Stadium, visited by Michel Platini, the Uefa president, below, has been reconstructed while the rebuilding of the airport was completed in August. The headache for Kharkiv organisers is the road network, as PSV Eindhoven's players found when they were trapped in a traffic jam on their way to a Europa League game last month.

LVIV
A Unesco world heritage site that played host to over a million visitors when Pope John Paul II visited a decade ago, there were few doubts about the city's capacity to cope with the Euros. Wrangles over construction of the stadium threatened its viability but great progress appears to have been made.

Dhadak

Director: Shashank Khaitan

Starring: Janhvi Kapoor, Ishaan Khattar, Ashutosh Rana

Stars: 3

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5

Ads on social media can 'normalise' drugs

A UK report on youth social media habits commissioned by advocacy group Volteface found a quarter of young people were exposed to illegal drug dealers on social media.

The poll of 2,006 people aged 16-24 assessed their exposure to drug dealers online in a nationally representative survey.

Of those admitting to seeing drugs for sale online, 56 per cent saw them advertised on Snapchat, 55 per cent on Instagram and 47 per cent on Facebook.

Cannabis was the drug most pushed by online dealers, with 63 per cent of survey respondents claiming to have seen adverts on social media for the drug, followed by cocaine (26 per cent) and MDMA/ecstasy, with 24 per cent of people.

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

How to join and use Abu Dhabi’s public libraries

• There are six libraries in Abu Dhabi emirate run by the Department of Culture and Tourism, including one in Al Ain and Al Dhafra.

• Libraries are free to visit and visitors can consult books, use online resources and study there. Most are open from 8am to 8pm on weekdays, closed on Fridays and have variable hours on Saturdays, except for Qasr Al Watan which is open from 10am to 8pm every day.

• In order to borrow books, visitors must join the service by providing a passport photograph, Emirates ID and a refundable deposit of Dh400. Members can borrow five books for three weeks, all of which are renewable up to two times online.

• If users do not wish to pay the fee, they can still use the library’s electronic resources for free by simply registering on the website. Once registered, a username and password is provided, allowing remote access.

• For more information visit the library network's website.


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