Shakira Adds Fireworks To Kiev's Troubled Arena

KIEV, Ukraine -- Colombian pop sensation Shakira joined forces with Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych and 60,000 spectators as the covers came off Kiev's troubled Euro 2012 Olympiysky stadium on Saturday in a politically-tinged opening.

Colombian singer Shakira.

"With this stadium, Ukraine will organise a worthy Euro 2012," said Yanukovych of a ground which will host five matches, including the July 1 final, at the championships being co-hosted with Poland, but which has been dogged by construction delays and accusations of corruption.

Yanukovych, whose popularity ratings have plummeted, was jeered as he spoke while the festivities were also held up by three naked female demonstrators who ran onto the pitch to demand a "Euro 2012 without prostitution."

The FEMEN pressure group believe that the tournament will encourage sex tourism in the financially struggling country.

Shakira, who also featured at the opening of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, performed for 40 minutes, singing the official song from last year's football showpiece, "Waka Waka".

Against a background of fireworks, more than 2,000 artists put on a show with Ukraine folklore at its heart.

The stadium was scheduled to be completed in June, but work on the 585 million euro ($783 million) renovations was delayed, a factor which caused UEFA to air their concerns to local organisers.

There were even threats to strip Ukraine of its hosting rights.

"If there is no stadium in Kiev, there is no Euro in Ukraine," said UEFA president Michel Platini during a visit to the former Soviet republic in April 2010.

But by September 26 this year, Platini had altered his opinion, claiming he was "completely reassured" by the state of preparations in the country's four host cities -- Kiev, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Lviv.

The stadium was built in 1923, briefly carrying the name of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, before he fell from grace and was assassinated on Stalin's orders in 1940.

Kiev's ground was later dedicated to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and also hosted matches in the 1980 Olympics' football tournament.

Work on the ground for Euro 2012 began three years ago with around 2,000 workers employed on the site.

But it has continued to be a source of controversy with opposition figures in the country claiming a lack of transparency in financial arrangements and that the costs were too high.

The government has rejected all accusations of impropriety.

"The stadium cost 20 to 25 percent less than similar installations elsewhere in the world," said vice-Prime Minister Boris Kolesnikov, who is in local charge of Euro 2012.

Ukraine will play Germany on November 11 in what will be the first game in the new arena.

Source: AFP