WARSAW, Poland – As workers began dismantling a fan zone in Warsaw, Polish officials expressed pride and satisfaction Monday at how their country co-hosted the European Championship.
The nearly monthlong soccer tournament has brought a huge surge of optimism and pride in Poland, and along with years of economic growth, reshaped the fortunes and outlook of many in this country of 38 million. Some Poles are now speaking of a "civilization" jump, thanks to the new roads and stadiums built and the railway stations modernized for Euro 2012.
Perhaps even more importantly, many Poles are basking in the sense that the world sees their country differently now after huge numbers of foreigners descended. It's not a drab, post-communist country anymore, it's a dynamic and welcoming society.
"We showed the world a Poland that is striving toward modernity, a Poland on the way toward beautiful and lasting development," President Bronislaw Komorowski said.
He and Prime Minister Donald Tusk gathered with the national football team in Warsaw, thanking the players for their efforts a day after Spain won the tournament final 4-0 against Italy in Kiev. The Polish team was eliminated after the group stage but had few moments of pride, particularly with 1-1 draw against historic foe Russia.
Tusk praised Poland captain Jakub Blaszczykowski, who scored that goal.
"We will all remember it — I believe — to the end of our lives as a symbol of how we are building, step by step, a football (soccer) power," Tusk said.
Polish police said they had detained 652 people, including 179 foreigners. Most were detained were for minor offenses. Although the event was largely peaceful, some street clashes broke out in Warsaw on the sidelines of the Russia-Poland game.
The clashes occurred as Russians marched to the stadium on Russia Day, something many Poles saw as a provocation given the decades that Russia occupied or controlled Poland.
Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz said nearly 1.5 million people had watched matches in the Warsaw fan zone, with 100,000 there for the Sunday's final alone.
The tourism impact was significant, city officials said, noting that the one McDonald's set up in the Warsaw fan zone sold 68,000 hamburgers and seven tons of French fries.