DONETSK, Aug. 29 – Ukraine’s political leaders on Saturday joined together for the grand opening of Donbass Arena, a $400 million soccer stadium in Donetsk, one of four that are expected to host the Euro-2012 championship.
The stadium, home of Shaktar Donetsk soccer club, was built by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s wealthiest businessman, who has assets in steel, coalmining, banking, media, sports and retail sectors.
“Donbass Arena is the gift for all of Ukraine,” President Viktor Yushchenko said Saturday addressing the gathering of about 50,000 people that had joined the grand opening.
The opening of the stadium is expected to ease international concerns with Ukraine’s repeated delays with construction of infrastructure projects ahead of the Euro-2012 tournament.
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, opposition Regions Party leader Viktor Yanukovych and former Parliamentary Speaker Arseniy Yatseniuk also joined the event among 3,000 dignitaries and celebrities.
Tymoshenko did not speak at the opening and refused to be seated in the VIP guest sector along with other politicians, instead taking a seat - surrounded by her bodyguards and loyalist lawmakers - at a lower level.
The Donbass Arena is the first stadium in Eastern Europe built according to the highest standards of European soccer association UEFA, according to stadium’s Website.
The Olympic Stadium in Kiev, which is expected to host the final match of the Euro-2012 is currently under major reconstruction with funding provided by the central government.
The funding for the Euro-2012 was part of a political battle earlier this month between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko as the cash-strapped government had called for the National Bank of Ukraine to print almost 10 billion hryvnias, or $1.17 billion, to finance the Euro-2012 projects before the end of the year.
Yushchenko said the rampant money printing will boost inflation, and may put downward pressure on the hryvnia, which has been losing value against the U.S. dollars over the past three weeks.
Lawmakers loyal to Tymoshenko and Yanukovych joined forces earlier this month to override the veto from Yushchenko and to go ahead with the plan that orders the central bank to print the money for the projects.
Yushchenko, who had a special meeting with NBU Governor Volodymyr Stelmakh, urged the central bank not to buy the government’s Treasury bills as part of the money printing scheme.
He said the central bank and the government should try to raise the money from domestic commercial banks instead. (nr/ez)