Tag Archives: Ireland

Euro 2012 – inside the stadium

On Sunday, my wife and I attended the Euro 2012 Group C game in Poznan, between Ireland and Croatia. Unlike Ian, I had been able to source tickets through the UEFA website, although not through the initial general lottery, but rather when the tickets came on offer later. As an Irish person, the 3-1 defeat to Croatia was hard to take, but was a great experience to have attended. I won’t cover the football in too much detail, as that will have enough coverage elsewhere. However, some other points of note are covered below.

Poland/Poznan as a host

My initial feelings around how Poland was preparing to be a host to many other countries was that the expectations were very low-key and low level. Poznan normally works well as a tourist location, and has the Poznan International Fair, which occurs each few months. However, it seemed like a lot of people and businesses in Poznan were treating Euro 2012 as just an extension of normal tourist operations. However, with in the region of 60,000 to 70,000 extra visitors, across 3 match-days, it seems like there were no specific plans in place with how best to manage them, and make the most of the visits. The supermarkets and off-licences had long queues, while there were parts where there were no people at all visiting, only a few minutes from the city centre.

Poland as a Central European location

It seemed like a criticism of Ukraine and positive for Poland, when 12 of the ‘visiting’ 14 teams (apart from the 2 hosts) chose to base themselves in Poland. With most teams opting to stay in Poland and fly into Ukraine if needed, it seemed to point at the availability of facilities in Poland versus in Ukraine. However, another factor was Poland’s central location, and thus availability to most of the qualifying countries as an easy-to-reach location. This was highlighted in two ways. Firstly, the Czech Republic team had the best draw when it came to location. The closest Euro 2012 location to Czech Republic was Wrocław and all of their games take place there. Not even the hosts have that luxury, as they have a change of venue at least once. This allows the Czechs most convenience with the border being only one hour by drive from Wrocław.

However, this was also highlighted in two other ways. When driving from Kraków to Poznań on Sunday, there were many cars with Croatian flags and number plates also travelling north. This showed Poland’s worth as a central location. We even saw two cyclists who were travelling from Croatis (presumably taking a few days to get to Poznań from Croatia). While travelling near Wrocław, we also saw many cars from Germany, who seemed to be returning from L’viv after watching Germany win 1-0 against Portugal on Saturday night. Whatever about available infrastructure, most locations for Euro 2012 seemed to give options to most fans to travel to the games.

Ireland vs. Croatia

Inside the stadium versus television

In the Municipal Stadium (Stadion Miejski)in Poznań, there was a great atmosphere. The stadium design means that noise reverberates and echos to make a great atmosphere. However, there were a few signs where the stadium did not feel fully finished, despite officially reopening almost 2 years ago in September 2010. When the first football games were played there were a number of concerns raised by UEFA, and while most seem to have been addressed, there were small points noticeable. For example, there were a few points where covers for plug sockets had been broken and in other places where plastering had not been fully completed to the best of standards. However, for the game between Ireland and Croatia, there was a great atmosphere. About 70% of the audience was Irish, with most of the remainder Croatian and while the result meant the Croats had reason to sing, the Irish fans continued to give support. Due to the stadium shape, this gave a great atmosphere, although this may not have translated as well to the television screens.

Stadion Miejski in Poznan

When watching some other games on TV, the crowd seems somewhat muted. However, having been in the stadium I can say that it does not seem to reflect the amount of singing which takes place. Furthermore, when watching a game on TV, it seems that most stadia are all the same with the same ads scrolling past and so on. This seems to be a ‘curse’ of the modern stadium where it is designed with commercial effects in mind rather than for the fans.

National Anthems

Clashes, Fights and other disturbances

It was interesting to visit the Rynek and fan-zone in Poznań. With thousands of people collecting there, and much alcohol being consumed, it was easy to see how some clashes could occur. However, what made it most interesting was that the clashes that occurred seemed to be more between fans (of one nationality) and police, rather than between opposing fans. The Irish fans in particular seemed to be looking for the party and something to forget the economic reality. However, the Croatia fans did let off some fireworks and flares to celebrate scoring goals, only for the Polish stewards and police to step in. A video of fans on Poznań’s Rynek seems to support this, showing fans attacking police rather than other fans. This also seems to align to the story of Russian fans attacking Polish stewards last Friday. Thus, it is interesting to see the response prepared for future such situations, should they occur over the coming couple of weeks.

Polish Army Helicopter patrolling Poznań

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English patients dying for treatment in Poland

This might come as a shock to most people in Poland, but apparently Poland has a BETTER healthcare system than Britain.

Poles do complain a lot, and healthcare is one of their favourite subjects to moan about. Quite rightly so, as there is a need for massive improvements and updates. Healthcare financing badly needs to be reformed too. I don’t know whether this makes Poles feel better – but there are places in this world where healthcare is actually worse. One of those places is wealthy Britain. Believe it or not but the British Health Minister visited Poland recently to study and learn from the healthcare system management in this country.

Britain sports a system where general practitioners (Polish: internista) are responsible for the majority of diagnosis and treatment. Extreme cases qualify for hospital. And there is nothing in between. British GPs have to deal with a multitude of conditions, although they cannot possibly have advanced knowledge in all fields of medicine. Many people, therefore, reach specialist treatment only when their condition worsens.

The Polish system is opposite to the British. GPs are often referred to as ‘doctors of first contact’, and wont treat anything more serious than flu on their own. Their main task is to refer their patient to specialists (such as: cardiologists, opthalmologists, neurologists, rheumatologisst, endocrinologists, alergologists, pulmunologists etc.) who work at one of thousands of “Poradnia specjalistyczna” and to gather a patient’s whole medical history. These are the middle link between a GP and the hospital. They diagnose and treat conditions that do not require hospitalisation, and support the further treatment of patients who have left hospital.

What is more, in Britain, patients have to wait up to three days for an appointment with a GP, while in Poland they will be received the same day, or on the spot. Queing for appointments to specialist doctors and for operations in Britain could take years. Although there are some waiting times in Poland, it’s never been that drastic.

Another issue with which the British healthcare has been struggling for years is a problem with staff commitment and discipline. Hygene is poor, which results in severe hospital infections, such as MRSA superbug epidemic. Carers frequently neglect their duties regarding washing and taking care of immobile patients. Inspection bodies have reportedly been ineffective at identifying the wards and staff that have failed. Polish nurses working in the UK have told horror stories. (Disregard for hygene (and other) standards, cases of head lice and scabies left right and centre, staff ignoring patients diet requirements – sometimes with serious consequences, state inspections saying everything is fine, management getting rid of the Polish troublemakers.)

Problems with staff in Poland concentrate around the issues of bribery – either by patients, in order to skip the waiting list, or by pharmaceutical companies and their “incentives” to use particular medications. Doctors and nurses are however usually regarded as well trained, and resourceful – not least becasue they often have to work without the newest equipment available to their Western colleagues.

No wonder Polish people who have relocated to the British Isles are opening clinics for themselves (and for the autochtones). “To provide the level of service that we were accustomed to in our country” – as Jarosław Leszczyszyn, Professor of Medicine at EMC Medical Centre Dublin, puts it.

Not everything is perfect with the Polish healthcare system of course. NFZ, a state agency that signs contracts with hospitals and provides state-funded services to the general public, is being criticised for various policies. In many cases cheaper and older procedures are preferred to be covered, by the NFZ, over more advanced and expensive treatment. For many hospitals the NFZ funding is not enough, and they are deep in debt. But they say no healthcare system in the world is perfect.

Do you agree? Have you been diagnosed/treated in Poland, Britain, Ireland or elsewhere? What are your experiences?

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The mystery of Polish hand-kissing finally explained

There was an animated debate here on Polandian about hand-kissing and Polish chivalry. Irish television finally explains it all… simply and elegantly.

RTE, the Irish broadcaster, brought the soap opera ‘Pierwsza Miłość’ to Irish viewers to enlighten them about various aspects of Polish culture. One has to admit they did a magnificent job with the English dubbing…

OK, so they actually parodied the original Polish show :) it’s hilarious. They called it ‘Soupy Norman’. You Tube it. I recommend episode 6. The Irish version tells the story of a dysfunctional Cork family in Dublin.

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