Lviv Prepares for Eurobasket 2015
EUROBASKET 2015: IS LVIV READY?
So what does a EURO 2012 Host City do for an encore? After a largely successful foray into the world of hosting major international sporting events during last year’s UEFA Euro 2012 event, different levels of government are openly musing about having the Lviv / Karpaty region bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. In the meantime, and possibly as a forerunner to that lofty goal, Lviv has already been selected as one of the host sites for the 2015 European Basketball Championships. The biennial event, known as EuroBasket, will be held this year in Slovenia and will serve as the European qualifiers for the 2014 Basketball World Cup. The 2015 tournament in Ukraine will also serve as the European qualifying event for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The last edition, held in Lithuania in 2011, was the largest sporting event ever hosted in the Baltic States and sold over 150,000 tickets. The organizing committee, made up primarily of the city’s EURO 2012 organizers, expects over one million visitors and are touting the tournament as one of the Top 5 sporting events in the world. While surely not that large, the tournament is indeed a major event on the international sports calendar and will provide Lviv with an opportunity to continue to improve its sporting infrastructure in preparation for any future Olympic bid.
Ukraine is in a unique position for hosting the tournament. With fully half of the slated EuroBasket host cities having already acted as EURO 2012 hosts, much of the outlying infrastructure such as improvements in roads, transportation, airports/train stations, and accommodations have already been completed. In addition to Lviv, Kyiv, Donetsk and Kharkiv, EuroBasket games are slated for Dnipropetrovsk and Odessa (conflicting information also lists Ivano-Frankivsk). The organizing committee has invested 39 million euros, most of it private funds, in building or refurbishing arenas in every host centre, as well as improving roads and airports and building over 2,000 modern basketball playgrounds in cities across Ukraine. One of the stated goals of the organizing committee is to improve the basketball infrastructure in Ukraine. For example, Ukrainian SuperLeague basketball teams in the host cities currently play games in arenas with capacities roughly between 1,500 and 6,500 (Lviv’s Halychyna Sports Palace holds only 1,200). Following completion of the new multipurpose arenas / event centres, the capacity in those cities will jump to between 6,000 and 17,500.
Lviv’s New Arena
In addition to hosting basketball matches, the new facilities are being designed to host concerts and other sporting events, including hockey. This is good news for cities with professional teams and inadequate hockey facilities, including Lviv, whose Professional Hockey League team HC Lviv Levy currently plays out of the tiny 600 capacity arena in Novoyavorivsk. The new facility in Lviv, whose construction begins this month, is slated to be built on Riashevska Street in the Zaliznychny District near Arena Lviv, the city’s beltway, and the airport. The building has been designed to be a comprehensive sports facility featuring a skating rink and a hall for team sports. Yuriy Maiboroda, the Head of Department for Physical Culture and Sports for the Lviv Regional State Administration, envisions the facility hosting not only the EuroBasket 2015 final, but also the hockey tournament in a 2022 Winter Olympics. With an expected capacity of only 6,000 – 8,000 for sports competitions and 10,000 for concerts, the design will need to include an option to increase capacity for either of those events to happen. The new arena in Kyiv, already under construction and expecting to have a capacity of 17,780, is the likely host of the EuroBasket 2015 final.
After football, basketball is one of the most popular sports in Ukraine. Several Ukrainian players formerly starred on Olympic and World champion Soviet teams and the Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague has been in continued existence since 1992 with 14 teams from across the country competing in last season’s edition. Lviv’s professional team, BC Politekhnika-Halychyna, just capped a strong season by finishing 4th after losing to eventual champion Kyiv Budivelnyk in the semi-finals. Other Ukrainian club teams, however, have seen some success internationally with teams from Kyiv and Mariupol making the EuroCup finals in recent years. This success has yet to translate into serious results for the national team as the squad has yet to finish higher than 13th in Europe and missed qualifying for the final tournament in two of the three previous editions. Regardless, there are high hopes for the 2013 and 2015 editions. Ukraine automatically qualifies as EuroBasket host in 2015 and qualified for this year’s tournament back in September 2012 by beating teams from Austria, Hungary and Cyprus. So just how well can we expect the national team to perform? Drawn into a group with teams like France, Germany and Great Britain (as well as Israel and Belgium) the team will need to defeat at least two higher-ranked squads to best their previous results. Led by 2.11m centre Slava Kravtsov, who plays for the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, and American-born shooting guard Steve Burtt, qualifying for the second round will be considered a major success.
So is Lviv ready to host Europe again in 2015? EURO 2012 was twice as large, with 1.8 million tourists. For that tournament, 70 hotels were built, 4 airports were renovated and upgraded and over 900 kilometres of roads were built. Oleksandr Vilkul, Deputy Premier of Ukraine, maintains the city has the necessary infrastructure following that tournament. Indeed, at a recent roundtable entitled “From EURO 2012 to EuroBasket 2015 and Winter Olympics 2022”, he insisted that the EuroBasket tournament is an important step to a 2022 Olympic bid for Lviv / Tysovets / Borzhav region. He noted that the average EURO 2012 tourist spent around $400 USD and envisions the region reaping the tourism benefits of not only EuroBasket, but of the Olympics as well. Regardless of any forthcoming Olympic bid, a new mid-sized arena to act as a winter concert venue and to be shared between Lviv’s BC Politekhnika-Halychyna and HC Lviv Levy, should be sufficient enough to host EuroBasket 2015 and a boon to the local economy. It should also benefit the city’s local indoor sports teams and help develop interest in basketball in the region. Whether the venue is large enough to host Olympic skating events is a discussion for another day.