After Five years of preparations it’s showtime in Poland and Ukraine where on Friday the 14th edition of the European Championships begin.
Proceedings will commence in Warsaw with Poland taking on Greece in their group A opener and for the thousands of travelling fans without tickets the Fan zone in the city centre is also ready for action.
Reports of racism have caused a controversial debate in the recent build up to the event but local anti-racist groups say there should not be a problem.
For the first time in the championship’s history organisers have set up so-called ‘inclusive zones’ in hotels, bars, restaurants and even shops, where football fans can enjoy the games regardless of nationality, ethnic background or sexual orientation.
Ewa Cylwik from the Never Again Foundation said: ‘‘I have friends from difference countries, some of them African Americans, some of them Latinos, who are coming here for the games and they are not afraid to come. I think although we have a problem with discrimination, many places such as this one are open and tolerant.’‘
On the eve of UEFA’s flagship tournament the atmosphere was rather muted with few people in the centre of Warsaw.
But that should all change on Friday as thousands of supporters are expected to descend upon the city.
Five years ago when Poland and Ukraine were awarded the European Championship, many doubted that they would be ready in time.
Both nations proved their detractors wrong.
The tournament is well and truly ready for kick off and will enter the history books as the first European Cup to be held in the former Eastern bloc.