I flew into a city I knew nothing about. I flew out wanting to stay longer. I experienced a beautiful city with beautiful people and an event that can do wonders for the city and the country. Welcome to a blog that is a deeper look at the why and what the outcomes of what was produced could be…
What was the event?
Opening Ceremony for the 2nd European games held in Minsk.
The event “began” at 8pm and finished at 00:45am…not a long night at all.
Let the story begins…
The opening ceremony was not just about the games but was the opportunity for Minsk to be opened to the world. As a city in 2016 it had 88,000 organised tourist trips now in 2019 with a European Games ticket purchases I could get in to the country visa free and I was able to really truly understand the hidden gem of Europe.
Lets talk about the opening ceremony as a production that would begin the biggest multisport event that Belarus had ever held. In 2014 Minsk and Chizhovka held the Ice Hockey Championships but this event was about to blow that out the water. A total of 640,044 people attended that event with 16 teams playing. However, now 50 European States were involved and it was much larger than a sporting event – it was political event. Leaders included Bosnia, Russia and other countries were represented in Dynamo Stadium. 22,000 people were sitting in the seats to watch a story be told through the screens to Europe and beyond.
On an article written at the end of May it was estimated that half a billion people would be waiting in 120 different countries to watch the show. Think about that. Half a billion people were about to be told a story from a country that just three years before had now even 20% of that visit the country in a year. The impact this show and production could have was astronomical – and it was only the first day.
A special atmosphere was in the air in Minsk. I know what this feeling is like because I have been fortunate to experience large scale of events. But what I saw was special. This was people who never had experienced this ever before. No casting call had ever been so big or a story from Latvia had been produced to launch the sporting event. No one had ever sat on a lifeguard chair giving out high fives to people they don’t know – because that’s just not in the culture.
So lets now talk about what it was like sitting in a plastic chair in Sector D28, row 9 and seat 9. In this section I was the only English-speaking person and my Russian is rusty – actually it is non-existent. I decided to wear my Scotland top so it would highlight I was certainly not a local but I have my own patriotic reason for sitting in the stadium and I do not speak Russia.
As I sat in my seat or even before I got to my seat a few observations:
- Most of the volunteers were between the ages of 18-23 they were extremely young. It actually was said at the ceremony most volunteers were about 18-25 and 75% who registered were female and 25% being male. The most popular name for a female was Anastasia and for a male was Alexander. They were mainly all student of the State University and had the opportunity to volunteer for incentives the following year.
- On every seat there was an audience kit. Nice touch but with a plastic Minsk interactive watch and a book about the event we were about to experience – was it very sustainable – but thats to be discussed in my book next year…in all good book shops.
- A total of 450 torch bearers had participated with 7,700 kilometers covered by the torch.
- The production company for the event was Russian based who then worked with a Belarusian Company. Art City 5 was the name who had worked at a lot of games including Astana and Kazan.
A story of folk from Latvia was played out. I think it was great but at a few times in the stadium it was flat. Gymnasts, performers and others were all about of telling the story. They tried but sometimes being so far away it was better watching it on the television – like the guy below literally did – the whole night.
A lot of stage hands were hiding behind the lights to run on and change into the next scene. Five scenes in total were had with the athlete ceremony being the first start to get this place erupting. I give those in the stadium dew the atmosphere was outstanding. They knew how to cheer and be vocal – especially when Russia, Ukraine and Belarus came through – I was screaming from the UK…probably one of not many.
The security at the event was extremely tight. I felt the eyes piercing in all directions but it was safe including from the security guard who thought they were too cool to wear there hat and wore a Real Madrid hat backwards instead. The atmosphere was great and I can only hope like I did – have an open mind and loved Minsk. The opening ceremony was a welcome and even when we got taught some dancing – it was all about welcoming people in. It was about the night of making noise, colour and a story – and it did all of the above.
Congratulations to the committee for creating an epic and opening event to begin a new chapter for Minsk and Belarus. I hope the momentum is still all go and they can allow the country be explored and enjoy the beauty for all for years to come.
One thing to take away…
Welcome to the event that had to be more than just a story. It was a message that the president delivered and so did the volunteers. With a smile and a determination those who were volunteering wanted to ensure everyone knew how wonderful Minsk was – and they certainly were not wrong.