When you travel to Ukraine, sports probably aren’t the first thing on your mind. The country isn’t particularly well-known for professional athletes, nor does it tend to host major international events (such as the World Cup that neighboring Russia will be hosting this summer). However, the reasons for watching sports are the same everywhere. A little bit of sports-focused tourism can expose you to cool town and venues, local fan bases, and sometimes just something fun to do.
In this spirt we’re going to look into some of the fun sporting events to take in during a trip to Ukraine. Some of these aren’t particularly huge in stature, but every one can make for a fun addition to your trip.
If there is one world-class sporting venue in Ukraine, it’s undoubtedly the NSC Olimpiyski football stadium. Built in the ‘20s but opened in the ‘40s and boasting a massive capacity of over 70,000 fans, the stadium has a fascinating history. Most notably its opening was delayed because of the German invasion of Russia during World War II! In the years since however it has been improved and put to use in numerous ways.
Much of the world got to know this stadium in its modern capacity when it hosted some of the group matches during the Euro 2012 tournament. However, it’s more regularly used as the home of Dynamo Kiev, which is arguably the most prominent club team in the country
Stadion CSC Nika
This is a stadium that should be pointed out simply as a contrast to NSC Olimpiyski, and a better approximation of the average local sporting occasion in Ukraine. It’s far smaller, able to seat roughly 7,000 spectators, and lacks the flash and grandeur of NSC Olimpiyski. However, it’s places like these that sometimes reveal some true local character when you take in a match.
Stadion CSC Nika is home to FC Alexandria, and opened fairly recently in the scheme of things, in 1998. It’s a pretty little park and a lovely place to watch football, located in between the Inhulets River and the Berezivka River.
The tennis club at Sofia-Star, a hotel complex in the town of Rivne, is fairly small. It’s quite nice, incidentally, with a row of orange clay courts and minimal seating. And it happens to be the location for fairly frequent events on the International Tennis Federation juniors circuit. That means while you won’t necessarily see the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal passing through Ukraine, you might get to see some really good tennis, potentially featuring some up-and-coming players.
Keep an eye on any local players as well, because Ukraine is being put back on the map thanks to the emergence of Elina Svitolina. The 23-year-old is ranked fourth in the world, and though most of the focus is on the men heading into the French Open (thanks to the shadow Rafael Nadal casts over the whole sport on clay), she’ll be in the mix for a major title. Perhaps you’ll see the next Svitolina in action if you stop by the club!
Palace Of Sports “ZTR”
This is a different kind of sports venue, almost more like a supersized local gym. However, in addition to company events and training it does host regional sporting events, including matches for some of Ukraine’s most prominent team handball teams. Most notably, both ZTR Zaporizhia and ZTR Burevisnyk – two teams in the Ukrainian Men’s Handball Super League – call this gym home. f
Watching handball at the Palace of Sports “ZTR” isn’t like most spectator experiences, as there aren’t conventional stands. But you can more or less watch from overhead if you get into the venue, and Ukrainian handball at the highest level is thrilling to watch. It’s a sport practiced primarily in certain corners of Europe, and it’s one that Ukrainians can be quite skilled at.
This isn’t a full look at Ukrainian sports by any means. There’s more to see on the football scene, and the country is also fairly passionate about boxing and volleyball, both of which you might see in an arena built for miscellaneous purposes. But this should give you an idea of some venues to take a look at, and what you might see there.