Soccer-Euro-Proud co-hosts Poland ready to party
WARSAW, June 8 |
WARSAW, June 8 (Reuters) - Thousands of proud Poles donned their national red and white colours and turned central Warsaw into a party zone on Friday, ignoring rain and gloomy skies to count down to Poland's match against Greece which opens Euro 2012.
"It is great to have so many people here, I'm really excited, and so glad to have the Euro in Poland," said 25-year old student Slawek Wojciechowski ahead of the opening ceremony for the tournament, which is being co-hosted with Ukraine.
Fans streamed through the city's scenic old town and out towards Warsaw's striking stadium by the Vistula, while others lined up for a good spot in the fan zone around the Palace of Culture and Science, a hated gift to Poland from the Soviet Union in 1952 but now one of the city's calling cards.
"This is a huge event for Poland. It is the first time we have ever hosted anything like this, and I'm really impressed by the atmosphere," said 34-year-old Leszek Wilczak from Krakow.
"It is a chance for Poland to show itself, and hopefully people visiting will come back again."
Amongst the sea of red and white, a few vivid blue flags of Greece stood out.
"All the pressure is on the Polish team today, they are the hosts. Greece has a good chance," said Manos Klothakis, 36, who had travelled from Crete.
Greek fans joked they badly needed a victory to cheer up the nation, which is mired in economic and political turmoil. Swelling their ranks were Greeks based in Germany.
"There are not many of us. It was easy to come from Germany, but I was worried there wouldn't be many able to come from Greece," said Kiriakos Sampsonidis, 27, from Dortmund.
Standing outside the stadium absorbing the atmosphere was an elderly Polish man who gave his name only as Marian.
"This is an amazing mood. The new, modern Poland is so completely different from the old Socialist state. This is a proud moment." (Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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