Europe’s football governing body UEFA said Thursday that the Russian city of St. Petersburg will host three additional Euro 2020 group games after the original hosts of the 12-city tournament could not guarantee fan admittance due to the coronavirus.
St. Petersburg was initially scheduled to host three group stage matches and one quarter-final when UEFA’s Euro 2020 kicks off this June. But UEFA relocated three games to Russia’s second city after authorities in the Spanish city of Bilbao and the Irish capital of Dublin could not give guarantees of welcoming enough fans into stadiums.
“The three Group E matches initially scheduled for Dublin, will be reallocated to the St. Petersburg Stadium,” UEFA said.
The organization also moved four matches from Bilbao to Seville.
UEFA’s decision follows unconfirmed media reports last November said that it was considering giving Russia all hosting duties for the Euro 2020 championship as the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged Europe.
The second wave caught up with Russia later in December and January, with the country currently among the world leaders in Covid-19 deaths and total cases.
UEFA president Alexander Ceferin has said the organization is exploring several scenarios for holding the Euro 2020 finals in 2021, including slimming down the tournament from 12 host venues.
Russia’s three group-stage games against Belgium, Finland and Denmark will take place in St. Petersburg and Copenhagen this June.
St. Petersburg Ballerina Dances on Ice to Save Local Beach
A ballerina from St. Petersburg’s renowned Mariinsky Theatre has filmed herself dancing on the ice of the Gulf of Finland in a move to save a local beach from development.
Ilmira Bagautdinova is one of thousands speaking out against plans to construct a port terminal for grain shipments on Batareinaya Bay, a beach roughly 100 kilometers west of Russia’s second-largest city. In a video on Facebook, the ballerina performs the Dance of the White Swan from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” in a nod to the swans that inhabit the area.
“A unique natural and historical place where swans nest in spring, families with children rest in summer and hundreds of fishermen go out on the ice in winter … Nature in harmony with people. All of this is under threat of destruction,” Bagautdinova wrote, urging people to sign a petition calling on President Vladimir Putin to halt the beach’s development.
When asked whether she was cold, she responded that it was “all for the sake of preserving a unique natural place.”
In May 2020, the Russian government leased Batareinaya Bay to the Baltic Grain Terminal for 10 years, allowing the company to build a 35 billion ruble ($470 million) production and logistics complex and grain terminal there by 2024.
Activists say that in addition to being a popular recreation spot, the bay is part of a former protected wildlife zone and is a key habitat for rare plant species; animals such as the gray seal and ringed seal; and waterfowl and migratory birds, some of whom appear in the Red Book of endangered species.
In January 2021, Leningrad region governor Alexander Drozdenko said there was “no need” to build a separate port for grain shipments on Batareinaya Bay.