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Official Review by Andrew Kulyk, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
It is the largest stadium in Ukraine. It is also one of the oldest. What was opened in 1923 as the “Red Stadium of Trotsky” has undergone many name changes, and a good number of expansions and reconfigurations. Today NSC Olimpiyski serves as the national stadium of Ukraine, and is the sometime home of the powerhouse Dynamo Kyiv football club of the Ukrainian Premier League.
The stadium was closed and underwent a major reshaping from 2008-2011, in preparation for the Euro 2012 championships. The venue hosted the Euro final that year. The entire lower seating bowl was demolished and rebuilt, new press levels, luxury boxes at the top of the lower level, a distinctive new roof, and even an adjacent 13 story Park Inn hotel were added to the venue to bring it into UEFA compliance. Today capacity for the venue is 70,050.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
UAH means "Hryvnia," which is the Ukrainian currency. Prices here are denominated in Hryvnias and US dollars.
Concession stands are scattered throughout the main level concourse, and the menu is pretty much the same - pretty boring and ordinary. Chips or potato crisps are UAH 25/$1. A hot dog wrapped in bread UAH 30/$1.20. Pizza anywhere from UAH 25/$1 to UAH 35/$1.40 depending on the toppings. A bag of peanuts will set you back UAH 20/$.80 and sunflower seeds UAH 15/$.60. On the drink side it's Pepsi fountain products in one size, UAH 20/$.80. Mineral water, tea, coffee or juice UAH 15/$.60. Lvivska beer is served draft style. A pint will run you UAH 25/$1.
The club level lounge has a few more food items on the menu, including hamburgers and cheeseburgers UAH 35/$1.40. A better draft selection at the same price as the regular stands, UAH 25/$1. Full bar service is available in the lounge. Mixed drinks or shots will generally run between UAH 20/$.80 and UAH 35/$1.40.
There is a nicely appointed team store on the outer concourse facing the plaza. If nothing else, buy a scarf for UAH 130/$5.20. If you're really in the mood to shop, well, everything is here at rock bottom prices.
For a game featuring the Ukraine national team, and a corresponding full house, the atmosphere has to be electric. When Dynamo Kyiv is playing, and there are 15,000-20,000 fans scattered throughout this massive stadium, not so much.
Dynamo doesn't even play all their games here, opting instead to play at the nearby Lobanovsky Dynamo grounds where capacity better matches their attendances. Other than the sheer size of the place, the stadium bills itself as a multi purpose sports facility, including as a training and staging ground for the country's Olympic hopefuls. Hence the name "Olimpiyski." And that means a running track rings the periphery of the playing surface, putting the football pitch that much farther away from the fans. It's all too big. And the place echoes just from its vast size.
Kyiv is every bit a humming and buzzing world class city, with highways, skyscrapers, commerce and people everywhere. NSC Olimpyiskiy is right on the city's Cherepanov Hill looking over the mighty Dnipro River, in the city's Pechersk Raion. This is just three subway stops from Maidan Nezhalenosti (Independence Square), which is the cultural and economic heart of the city. The stadium and adjoining grounds are surrounded by a dense retail and residential neighborhood, plenty of mid rise apartment buildings, with a massive plaza serving as the stadium's gateway. In fact, the team's ticket office isn't even part of the stadium itself, but located in a separate structure just steps from the Olimpiyskiy Metro station.
Right across from the plaza, hugging Vul. Chervono Armiiska (Red Army Street) are a good number of cafes, restaurants, the Cat Pizza restaurant is a pretty good recommendation. The locals avoid these places because they generally charge higher prices, and cater mostly to visiting fans. In western currencies these eateries are still relatively cheap.
The breakup of the old Soviet Union meant the formation of the Ukrainian Premier League. It all happened in 1991 and during the league's entire history since that time, Dynamo Kyiv and their arch rivals Shakhtar Donetsk, have pretty much owned the league. Most of the players on Dynamo are easily recognizable, also earning berths on the national team.
That means that Dynamo Kyiv is the most watched and most supported team not only in Kyiv, but throughout the country. Their team apparel is the league's hottest seller. As for the support at the games, most of the fan energy is generated from the politically incorrectly named "White Boys Club," where hooligans and loud fans light it up with the songs, chants, and a plethora of hot flares get set off whenever the home team scores. The public address announcer annoyingly scolds the fans not to light flares. Nobody pays attention.
Don't drive. Repeat. Don't drive. Cars in Kyiv can be a nightmare navigating around the city. At NSC Olimpiysky, there is an underground parking lot for season ticket holders and prepaid pass holders only. General parking is difficult to find, with such a dense neighborhood and no surface lots. Park on the street at your own risk, the signs and restrictions are a jumble of contradictory information. If you come across your vehicle and catch a policeman writing a ticket, a bribe of a few hryvnias will go a long way to getting that ticket torn up. No, not kidding.
Best way to get to NSC Olympiyskiy is via the Metro. Cost is UAH 4/$.16 for a ride. The trains are clean, efficient and will take you here from anywhere in the city. Exit at the Olimpiyskiy station right next to the stadium, or the Palats Sportu station which is just a 10 minute walk.
If you've read this far, then you get the gist of the prices here. For westerners, everything is dirt cheap to the point of absurdity. We met a Brit who lives 10 minutes away from Gatwick, south of London. He says it's cheaper for him to catch a discount air carrier to Kyiv, spend a weekend here, eat and sleep like a king, and buy the best seats in the house for a fraction of the cost of taking the train to London and doing a Chelsea or Arsenal game in the EPL.
Top ticket prices for Dynamo Kyiv - UAH 400/$16, for the mid field club seats, and that includes access to an indoor climate controlled club lounge. The cheapest end zone tickets run UAH 25/$1.
2 stars for the anthem - Anthems generally aren't performed at European football games, such rituals reserved for international tournaments and friendlies. But here in Kyiv, their pregame intros open with a very emotional salute to the soldiers fighting the Russian incursion, the heroes of the 2014 Maidan revolution, and then a powerful rendition of the Ukrainian anthem, Sche Ne Vmerla Ukraina (Ukraine has not perished). It is stirring, it is patriotic, and so beautifully captures the pulse of this country at this time.
1 star for the bargain basement cost to attend a Dynamo Kyiv game.
1 star for the White Boys Club banner, juxtaposed with the 360 surround ribbon board with the simple UEFA appeal, "No To Racism." You can't make this stuff up!
The Ukrainian Premier League is a league in flux, with franchises coming and going, some playing on pitches no larger than a high school track and field installation. There are some really superb venue experiences in this league - Lviv, Donetsk (before the war hit that city) and Kyiv being the most notable. Come see Dynamo Kyiv. When you see this venue in all its glory on ESPN or some other American network down the line, you can say you were here.
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