All you need to know about EURO 2020 fan zones in St. Petersburg.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A FAN ZONE?
The idea to organize special areas for fans during major tournaments is a relatively new thing. The first large groups keen on watching football games in open-air locations started organizing themselves only in 2002 at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. At the time, the concept was just coming to life and the best way to deal with this was to erect large screens in places frequented by the public.
In 2006, when Germany was hosting the World Cup, an official program named "fan festivals," or fan fests, was launched, with tens of thousands of football fans crowding into specially organized zones every single day. They were often entertained by popular musicians. There were food courts all over the place, beach football games, high-ranking officials gave speeches, and even FIFA President Joseph Blatter once dropped by to chat with people.
FAN ZONES IN RUSSIA
During the 2018 FIFA World Cup, fan zones were organized in all the tournament cities. The biggest official area was set up on Moscow's Vorobyovy Gory and its daily attendance was estimated to be around 80,000, shooting up to a striking 167,000 on July 7, when Russia was playing in the quarterfinals with Croatia.
But fans also filled Nikolskaya Street that became an unofficial fan zone and a focus of attention for the world media. And it is no secret why it was so popular. First of all, it is simply beautiful, with its colorful garlands of lights, snug benches and historical buildings on both sides and beyond. Also, the street is spacious: though rather short by Moscow standards, it is free of traffic. Finally, it is logistically convenient, with Red Square at one end and Lubyanka Square at the other. There are several metro stations in the area and plenty of cafes and shops lining the street along its entire length.
Eventually the throngs on Nikolskaya Street and the Vorobyovy Gory made the city authorities organize yet another official fan zone and this one was inside Spartak Arena, which became fully operational before the 2018 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals. It boasted eight large TV screens and its turnout capacity was a whopping 50,000 per day.
FAN ZONES AT UEFA EURO 2020
St. Petersburg has three official EURO 2020 fan venues. The biggest one on Konyushennaya Square opens at noon on June 11. It is going to keep the best fan fest traditions, providing music performances, contests, a mascot, games, cafes, souvenir stores, food courts, and, of course, a huge TV screen that will come to life with the opening match of EURO 2020 between Turkey and Italy.
The Konyushennaya fan zone will operate daily from noon to 12 pm up until the final game scheduled for July 11 in London, UK.
The Football Park at the Yubileiny Sports Palace
The second official fan zone for 3,500 is at the Yubileiny Sports Palace on Prospekt Dobrolyubova. This is much more than just grandstands and a big screen. It is an actual football park.
The Yubileiny is primarily St. Petersburg's chief arena for ice-hockey games and where local figure skating stars train. But EURO 2020 will make other sports realize what football craze is all about. The ice arena will be transformed into a 30x15 m football pitch for daily matches, complete with off-field interactive amusements like Robokeeper (put yourself in Beckham's boots or pretend to at least) and Quickpass (remember the Spanish tiki-taka?), and of course there will be a masterclass zone.
Fan zone visitors are also in for performances by popular TV commentators, appearances by football stars, and lots of other surprises. There will be something new every single day, which means having a reason to visit the Football Park again and again and again.
Yet another official fan zone will be open on Dvortsovaya Square starting from the quarterfinals. People can enter it three hours before the decisive EURO 2020 games, on July 2 and 3 for the quarterfinals, on July 6 and 7 for the semifinals, and on July 11 for the final.
What Dvortsovaya Square Euro 2020 visitors are likely to be enthralled by is the concept. St. Petersburg is a city of drawbridges, and a bridge is what links two banks of a river. And this tournament is what unites the countries of an entire continent.
As part of this concept, a show is planned, on Dvortsovaya Square, with the pinnacles of the musical history and the best game moments over the 60 years since the tournament's inception. Each day will feature one of the most spectacular finals of European championships.
To implement this idea, special "screen doors" will be erected on the square where visitors will find themselves in a totally different place and even era: the highlights of the EURO history will emerge before spectators in an unusual atmospheric format.
Last but certainly not least, the important point is that admittance to any of these three venues is absolutely free of charge, with no preliminary registration required. But it should be noted that all fan fest visitors must follow COVID-19 regulations so masks are absolutely mandatory and body temperatures will be taken at the entrances.
A special tournament needs special fan festivals. EURO 2020 should stay in people's memory forever.