It comes every four years, it gives the people of country something to rally around. It’s a chance at glory, a chance at redemption, a chance to be a part of history. It’s a chance for a person to be a hero, to become a living legend. No, it’s not the Olympics. It’s not even the World Cup. It’s the European Championships, otherwise known as “Euro 2016” or a few other variations. Though it may not be on a global scale like the Olympics or World Cup, it’s still a big deal. Think Super-Bowl-Sunday-big, but instead of one country it’s an entire continent. Instead of one weekend, it’s one month. From June 10 to July 10. It’s way bigger than Super Bowl Sunday but I’m just trying to put it in perspective here.
Countries put in bids to host to The Union of European Football Association, or UEFA, and this Summer France will play host to the event. Games will be played at 10 different stadiums in 10 different cities. Of those stadiums, four are brand new and five have been renovated. €1.67 billion, or a little under $1.902 billion, has been spent building and renovating stadiums. For the duration of the 51 matches the estimated participation and revenue may seem outlandish, but really it’s a little deflated. There’s an expected 2.5 million spectators for the 51 matches and an estimated 150 million TV viewers per match (yes, per match) in 230 different broadcast zones. In terms of revenue, UEFA expects €400 million from sponsorships, €500 million from ticketing and hospitality, and €1 billion from TV rights. It’s a big money month for France as business all around the country should be booming.
The entire continent will be in a giant month long party and the rest of the world will be partying right along with them. In the Summer of 2012 during a trip to the Philippines, I was woken up by screams and cheers from fans at nearby bars from 3a.m. until dawn by visiting European tourists and even native Filipinos. It was then that I really began to understand the magnitude of soccer outside of the U.S. A few nights later I even mustered up the energy to head to a bar at 4a.m.to indulge in the festivities, and sure enough, there were visiting Dutchmen decked in all orange ready to cheer on their team. They relished in the excitement with their countrymen in a foreign country. Although I wasn’t fully appreciative of the sport until recently, I sat in admiration of the love that large group of Dutch tourists had for their team.
I’ve always said, whether positive or negative, sports can be a unifying force. Even with the debt crisis going on in Europe, countries are able to enjoy one month of pure happiness and anguish alongside their countrymen. Personal differences and large looming problems are put on pause as a country and its people are able to come together for a common cause: showing pride in their country no matter what the outcome.
I’ll be watching and I encourage you to do the same. Though you may not be a footy fan, there are plenty of intriguing storylines and social implications that go alongside the Euros that make it even more exciting, as with any major sporting event.
Watch and enjoy, or don’t, but don’t cheat yourself at experiencing a different sporting vibe. It may be worth the 90 minutes.
Photo courtesy of Eurosport.com