Your guide to Euro 2012 in Gdansk
Welcome to Gdansk, to Euro 2012, and to our one-stop guide to the city and the tournament.
On this page you will find all the information you need, about fixtures, teams, transport, accommodation, tickets, the stadium, help and advice, and Gdansk's cultural and historic backdrop against which the competition will be played out.
Gdansk has generated many heroes close to the hearts of Poles. This summer, a new hero from any one of 16 nations could emerge, on the pitch of the city's new stadium. We're here to make sure you don't miss the moment.
When it was announced that Poland would co-host Euro 2012 with neighbours Ukraine, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Gdansk would be one of the cities chosen for matches. Once a ship-building city, it has undergone huge regeneration and continues to be among the leaders in commerce, tourism and urban development in Poland.
Yet Gdansk is also a city with an extremely varied past, having been part of several kingdoms and nations since first appearing in the historical records, sometime in the tenth century. It was even, for two brief periods, a self-ruling free city - in the early 19th century and between the first and second world wars. The changes in ownership of this strategically vital spot on the Baltic coast are reflected in the names it has had. As part of Germany and a free city, it has been called Danzig; to most Poles it is definitely Gdansk, but to a small number of Kashubian Poles - Kashubia being the region in which the city lies - the city is Gdunsk.
Whatever you choose to call it, there is no escaping the fact that Gdansk has played a major role in helping to shape modern Europe. Best-known are the events of September 1, 1939 when the Polish garrison at Westerplatte was shelled by the battleship Schleswig Holstein as German troops made a simultaneous landing on the beaches around Gdansk. It was the start of the second world war and, waiting for the help promised them by the English, the Polish troops stood their ground. Though heavily outnumbered and unprepared for such a battle, the Poles continued their defence for a week. In all likelihood they would have carried on way beyond that point - but they ran out of bullets.
Another major upheaval in Europe germinated in Gdansk just 25 years after the end of the war. By then part of the Polish People's Republic, rather euphemistically 'overseen' by Moscow, the largely working class city held demonstrations against Poland's communist leader, Władysław Gomułka. The year 1970 is remembered in Poland because of the outcome of these demonstrations - ten deaths of civilians under police and military gunfire, and the end of Gomułka's leadership. A decade on, the shipworkers of Gdansk were again proving to be a thorn in the side of the authorities. Under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa the trade union movement Solidarity was born in the city; unrest and rebellion spread through Poland and through the Soviet Union, and by 1989 the struggle for freedom - and the Eastern Bloc - were history.
Tourists to modern day Gdansk love the city for its rich cultural heritage of churches, museums, galleries and architecture. But they also come to sample a thriving and growing night life, and to experience a little of life in a city that has learned very quickly the importance of commerce and self-promotion.
Now, of course they are here for another reason too - the greatest game on earth, which will pit some of Europe's greatest athletes against each other. Here's what to look out for this summer.
Sunday June 10, 7pm
First Round, Group C
Spain v Italy
Thursday June 14, 9.45pm
First Round, Group C
Spain v Republic of Ireland
Monday June 18, 9.45pm
First Round, Group C
Croatia v Spain
Friday June 22, 9.45pm
Runner-up of Group A (Poland, Greece, Russia or Czech Republic) v winner of group B (Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, or Portugal)
It's nigh on impossible to predict how Group C is going to pan out - although Spain and Italy are the obvious bets for progressing to the quarter-finals. That's not to say that Croatia and the Republic of Ireland have no chance, but they will certainly have their work cut out. There's certainly the potential for some stunning football and memorable matches. On the other hand, caution may lead to more tactical play and draws in which a single goal scored against the right team may decide the fate of any of the competitors.
Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Denmark and Spain will all stay in and around Gdansk during the tournament. Germany will be at Hotel Dwor Oliwski and train at the Municipal Sports Centre, Ireland will be based at the Sheraton Sopot, training at Gdynia Municipal Stadium, Spain have chosen Hotel Mistral Sport Gniewino as their home, and will prepare at Gniewino Municipal Stadium, and Denmark will live at Hotel Marine, Kolobrzeg, and train at Kolobrzeg Municipal Stadium.
They are the current world champions, having finally won the trophy in 2010 after 13 attempts. Spain are also past European champions, having competed eight times and won the title in 1964 and 2008. Ironically, their first match in Gdansk will pit them against Italy - against whom they suffered their heaviest defeat, losing 7-1 way back in 1928. They qualified for Euro 2012 by winning Group I, beating Liechtenstein 4-0 and 6-0, Lithuania (3-1 on both occasions), Scotland 3-2 and 3-1, and the Czech Republic 2-1 and 2-0. They are ranked number one in the world.
The Azzurri - a name guaranteed to strike both fear and respect in the hearts of even the most adept of opponents. Italy are among the legends of world football, four times world champions (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006), and winners of the European trophy - on their first attempt - in 1968. Italy won Group C in the qualifying rounds of Euro 2012, with some impressive performances. They beat Estonia 2-1 and 3-0, Faroe Islands 5-0 and 1-0, Slovenia (1-0, twice), Northern Ireland 3-0 and Serbia. It was however something of a shock when they were held 0-0 in their other match against Northern Ireland. Italy's clashes with Serbia were somewhat controversial; the second match was drawn 1-1, but Italy were awarded a 3-0 victory after their home clash, which was abandoned after just six minutes because of trouble from some Serbian fans.
Republic of Ireland
Regularly everyone's favourite underdogs, the Republic of Ireland are yet to win an international trophy. This will be only their second stab at the European Championships, having played once before in 1988 and crashing out in the first round. They have had better results in the World Cup, but only just - having reached the competition three times and advancing to the quarter-finals in 1990. The Republic of Ireland qualified for Euro 2012 the hard way, reaching the finals via play-offs. In the end, a 4-0 victory and 1-1 draw against Estonia sent them on their way to this year's competition. Now they face an incredibly tough group and will need a hefty dose of the famous Irish luck if they are to progress.
Like the Republic of Ireland, Croatia owe their appearance at Euro 2012 to winning performances in the qualifying play-offs, having failed to do sufficiently well in their group games. They faced Turkey over two legs, beating them 3-0 and drawing 0-0 to secure their place in the championships proper. Yet any opponents who underestimate Croatia are likely to get a very nasty shock. The national side came third in the World Cup in 1998, despite taking part in the competition for the first time. They have played in every European Championship competition since 1996, when they reached the quarter-finals. They repeated this feat in the 2008 competition, and ironically, it was Turkey, the team they kept out of this year's competition, who stopped further progress that time. It was 1-1 after extra time, and a penalty shoot-out loomed. Croatia fell to pieces, hitting the net just once, and Turkey won the battle of nerves 3-1.
Meet the locals
You are likely to spot a lot of green and white in Gdansk during the tournament. These colours will be adorning the fans of the local Ekstraklasa team, Lechia Gdansk. The club's history is somewhat chequered, at least in footballing terms. They have spent a fair amount of time in the lower tiers of Polish football since being founded in 1945 under the name BOP Baltia Gdansk. It was not until three years later that they reached the top flight - and even then it was a yo-yo run as they pinged between first, second and even third division football. But, they've been back in the Ekstraklasa since 2008 and show definite signs of having stabilised. Off the pitch, Lechia can claim some extremely prominent fans. Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk are both keen followers of the green and whites.
The PGE Arena Gdansk is one of the most modern and breathtaking pieces of architecture in the city, with a finish that puts visitors in mind of the warm amber for which the Baltic coast is famous. It was finished in 2011, having taken three years to build at a cost of 645 million zloty, and is 236 metres long, 203 metres wide and 45 metres high Former Polish Cup and Polish Supercup winners Lechia Gdansk are based at the stadium, which according to the Arena management can hold 44,000 fans.
The stadium was designed by the architects RKW Rhode Kellermann Wawrowsky, as a focal point for the redevelopment of Gdansk. Its location, at ul. Pokoleń Lechii Gdańsk 1, is important in terms of the city's geography, as it acts as a lynch-pin pulling together the old town, docks and airport.
Everyone has been taken care of in the design of the stadium, which has ten sections. In the stands, the fans will be segregated to ensure everyone can enjoy the matches in safety, while VIP, corporate and press positions are spread over a split-level terrace. The edifice actually begins two stories below ground, with the mechanical and ventilation areas. Above these are security, control and further media areas, along with the changing rooms for the players. Business visitors can use the facilities on ground level, which also has catering, a shop and ticket kiosks. Next up is the bar and museum, along with VIP boxes, which continue one level more. The third level has been designed for the media, allowing reporters to get panoramic views of the action on the pitch, and right at the top are further mechanical and control sections.
If you are flying directly into Gdansk, you will land at Lech Wałęsa airport, just 14km from the centre. Train and bus services operate between the airport and the city, and, along with the tram network, make it easy to get around in Gdansk. You can check full timetables and routes on the transport section of the city's website.
The city also boasts the excellent SKM Rapid Urban Railway, linking Gdansk with the nearby cities of Sopot and Gdynia, and connecting the districts within Gdansk. You might even decide to arrive or depart by sea, as Gdansk is a major port city with lines such as Stena, DFDS and Polferries running services to Sweden, Germany, Holland, Denmark, the UK, and Norway.
Travelling onwards, perhaps to see games at other Euro 2012 venues, the Polish railway service has connections to the rest of the cities in Poland. Poznan is closest, at 305km away. Then it's the capital, Warsaw (345km), and Wroclaw (480km). If you are planning to go to the Ukraine games it's a bit more of a long-haul - Lviv is 725km away, Kiev is 1,190km, Kharkiv 1,600km, and Donetsk 1,810.
Gdansk is a city geared towards tourism, and has been rapidly developing over the past decade. So there are beds available to suit all pockets and requirements. Do remember though, that the coming of Euro 2012, like any major event, will push up prices for accommodation so you should book as early as possible in order to secure the best deals.
Accommodation in the city ranges from hostels, with single and double rooms and dorms, budget and mid-range hotels, top-end establishments that not only have five stars but are practically palatial, and self-catering apartments. The past couple of months have also seen something new linked specifically to Euro 2012 - as Poles see an opportunity to make a little extra cash by offering their apartments for rent during the tournament. This last option may be too much of a hit and miss chance for some, but if you read the language check out Gdansk's local media online to see what's on offer.
For everything else, there's a one-stop service covering not just Gdansk but many other cities in Poland and across Europe. Visit the website at Freebookers, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
A total of 1.4 million tickets are available for the Euro 2012 competition, and there are a number of ways in which you can get your hands on them.
But first, a warning. By all means, visit Gdansk to soak up the atmosphere and see games in the city's bars, but don't expect to be able to buy tickets at the stadium, and definitely avoid the touts that will inevitably put in an appearance. This latter point is important - not only will you pay massively over the odds and quite possibly end up with a fake ticket, but you probably won't get into the game. UEFA, the organiser of the tournament, has pointed out that it is the only body authorised to sell tickets to the games, in any form. This means that offers from other companies which do not have UEFA's blessing, including those selling travel, accommodation and ticket packages, are definitely not the real deal. UEFA said that fans should go through the official route to ensure their tickets are fairly priced and legitimate.
One of these routes is via the football association in your home nation. Each of the 16 qualifying countries has a UEFA portal for selling tickets. There are also UEFA licenced tour operators selling packages. In fairness, if you haven't already got a ticket, it might be a problem doing so. UEFA's ticket lottery is long-closed, but you might still have a chance via the official resale programme. If not, the official sponsors of the tournament run competitions offering tickets as prizes - certainly not a sure-fire way of getting to the match, but worth a shot if all else fails.
Help and advice
Football has always pushed emotions a little closer to the surface, and heated the blood by a degree or two. Most fans visiting Gdansk for the tournament will be there to urge on their teams and have high-spirited fun. All the same, it's as well to be aware of where you can get help if you need it.
To summon emergency aid by telephone, call the European emergency line - 112. However, there's no guarantee that the operator will speak your language. You can also call Polish services direct, on 997 (police) 998 (fire) or 999 (medical).
If you need help from a representative of your own country, or get into trouble during your stay in Gdansk, your first port of call should be your consulate in the city.
Finally, you can get medication for a variety of non-emergency conditions (including hangovers) at the chemists all over the city. Look for the Apteka signs, or call into any supermarket.