Simon Calder: The show must go on - but at what cost?

The man who pays his way

The most ambitious term in tourism? Showcase, as in "The Millennium Dome/Jubilee/Olympics will be a tremendous showcase for Britain". In their constant, thankless search for reasons to be cheerful, the champions of UK tourism are understandably keen to latch on to any big event as a source of long-term benefit in bringing travellers to Britain. But the risk of any showcase is that it may expose aspects that render the exercise counterproductive.

As last weekend's sodden spectacular showed, many of the nation's most endearing qualities are revealed in adversity. Battling for the title of Stoics of the Century were the Queen and her consort, standing for hours in a bitterly cold downpour; the million or two spectators by the Thames who ignored forecasts of a wintry weekend; and the saturated singers of the Royal College of Music, whose patriotic medley was undimmed by a storm that would have kept the hardiest of mariners in port.

All of which comprised a showcase of epic proportions, beamed around the globe to the amazement and amusement of folk from Azerbaijan to Arizona (both of which were hot and sunny last weekend). When the world should have been bedazzled, all it saw was a nation at its most bedraggled. Instead of clicking their way to a holiday in the land of hope and glory, prospective visitors presumably added "British summer" to the list of amiable UK idiosyncrasies that begins with The Archers, Cliff Richard and cricket.

No light for the England brigade

Loathe football or love it, the tournament that kicked off yesterday in Warsaw may also misfire as a showcase. On the map, the decision to stage Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine has some merit, but in reality these two great countries are more different than geography might suggest.

Football is superb at unlocking frontiers, as generations of British supporters have discovered when attending away fixtures at the bitter end of the Communist bloc from Tirana to Tbilisi. But Ukraine, where England's first three matches will be played, will fail dismally to showcase the best of the former Soviet republic.

In case you have not yet visited the biggest attractions of Ukraine, they begin with the city of Odessa. Grand 19th-century architecture is complemented by 25 miles of beaches, and topped off by the "Potemkin Steps" where Eisenstein's 1925 classic was shot. Twenty-four hours east and south by train takes you to the peninsula where the Charge of the Light Brigade, galloped into legend. In peaceful times, the vineyards of the Crimea make it a surrogate Soviet south of France.

Unfortunately, neither Odessa nor any of the cities of the Crimea was selected as a venue. Instead, England find themselves with two games in a mining town in the east of Ukraine. Donetsk is the kind of place that, given the finite nature of human existence, you can ignore in your quest to experience the best the world has to offer.

In contrast, Kiev, where England's intervening match will be played, is a vast, fascinating capital that rewards exploration. But not over the next few weeks, when hotel rates soar and the vile racism of a tiny minority of Ukrainians may be in evidence: wait until July to discover the city.

Meanwhile, any football fans considering a trip to Euro 2012 should transfer their allegiance to Ireland, who will be playing in Poland – whose host cities of Gdansk, Poznan, Warsaw and Wroclaw are cannily calculated to show the nation at its best.

Green light for transport

The silver lining revealed by last Sunday's storm clouds was that London's transport system will cope with the Olympics. When the biblical deluge began at 4pm, more than one million people tried to escape from their Thameside locations all at once.

While the Tube's performance was not without overcrowding, delays and frustration, everyone seemed to get home before contracting pneumonia. With most bridges in the centre of the capital blocked, and therefore half the bus network out of commission, the system survived a test far more stressful than Olympic events will offer. Prospective visitors to London can confidently ignore the authorities' predictions of Games gridlock.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Restaurant Manager / Sommelier

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionists - Seasonal Placement

    £12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced Hotel Receptionists...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionists - Poole

    £12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Recruitment Genius: Lifeguards / Leisure Club Attendants - Seasonal Placement

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Qualified Lifeguards are required to join a fa...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn