June 26, 2021

Soccer Takes Over St. Petersburg


Soccer Takes Over St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg has dusted off its decorative soccer balls from the FIFA World Cup held in Russia in 2018. Wikimedia Commons user A. Scott Fulkerson

If you have not noticed that Russia is hosting one leg of the month-long European soccer championship... you're probably an American, who statistically does not watch adult soccer.

St. Petersburg is currently one of 11 cities forgetting that COVID-19 is a thing and hosting gobs of foreigners.

The tournament, called UEFA Euro 2020, even though it is happening in 2021, began on June 11 and continues for one month.

The cool new St. Petersburg soccer stadium on trendy Krestovsky Island is alternately called Zenit Stadium, Krestovsky Stadium, The Spaceship, Saint Petersburg Stadium, and Gazprom Arena. The official name is Gazprom Arena. It opened in 2017 and held 56,196 fans in the Before Time. It has a sweet, retractable roof.

UEFA fans could enter Russia without a visa.

Budapest, Hungary, is the only UEFA 2020 city to allow players to perform in front of capacity crowds. St. Petersburg's Gazprom Arena is open to about 50% capacity. The city has four fan zones: Konyushennaya Square, Yubileiny Sports Complex, Palace Square, and Nikolskie Ryadi.

Meanwhile, Moscow is tightening pandemic restrictions as cases are skyrocketing. Though Moscow is not part of the UEFA tournament, it did have a fan zone, which is now closed. With similar concerns over rising COVID cases, St. Petersburg decided to cap capacity in fan zones and stop selling food inside.

Seven matches in the tournament are being held in the Northern Capital. The last one is a quarterfinal on July 2.

Peter the Great would be proud: even after all this time, Europe calls the city Peter built from a swamp "The Window to Europe."

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