Sport, albeit one of the most important cultural practices in the life of a society, in Poland seems to be a subject that remains poorly researched. This shortage is visible not only among contemporary cultural studies publications; sociological or ethnological literature cannot boast of many studies on this topic, either. The authors of the book “Stadium-City-Culture:Euro 2012 and the Transformation of Polish Culture" analyze an important sporting event, the EURO 2012 championship, to try to fill this gap in Polish social sciences. The reviewed book, the result of a research project organized by the Observatory Foundation and the Public Space Research Institute at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, absolutely does not treat the sport as a one-dimensional problem. The researchers tried to grasp the broad spectrum of aspects of the phenomenon, taking it as a part of culture that can strongly affect public awareness. At the same time, they manage to avoid taking a negative approach to football fans, a view seen particularly frequently in the media.
Beginning with the first chapter - “Stadium-City-Culture: The Global Sport's Industry and Local Aspirations," written by Wojciech Burszta and Mariusz Czubaj—the reviewed book presents sport as a phenomenon with huge research potential. The authors approach the subject in an interesting way—in comparison to the classical sociological and anthropological concepts, they draw attention to the fact that the sport is not only an important part of the culture but also a specific sector of industry. They agree with researchers such as Andrei Markovits and Lars Rensman that today's commercialized sport with its modern arenas is one of the most apparent signs of the era of capitalism and globalization, but that it can be also understood as a part of “the civilizing process." Burszta and Czubaj accurately observe the tendency in organizing sporting events in a way that could lead to “improve[d] customs": “Civilizing and harnessing local, national and continental emotions can be done through civilizational progress in the field of stadiums architecture, the aesthetics of space and such organizing of a sport event (holiday) that it resembles a consumption event in which the main sense admittedly comes down to cheer and agon, but both are civilized and regulated by the law, placed in the context of social needs of participation by providing comfort and safety" (p. 13).
The reader is then gradually introduced to the scheme of Polish social groups connected with EURO 2012, learning interesting characteristics of the different types of social actors, their attitudes and roles:
- Navigators: all the people who create the official discourse around EURO 2012;
- Etnofans (pl. etnokibice): football fans affiliated with the local football community—mostly supporters of a particular team representing their city;
- Witnesses: the inhabitants of the host cities who are not interested in local football; some of them do not even watch the matches of the national team;
- Visitors: guests who come to the host cities because of the matches involving their national teams; they are residents of other Polish cities or other countries.
A particularly vivid picture of social attitudes towards EURO is outlined by Piotr Majewski (chapter“EURO 2012 and Discourses of Identity"), who not only explains the differences between such groups as “Andrews" (pl. Andrzeje) and the above-mentioned “etnofans" but also emphasizes the importance of various attitudes of fans in the context of identity, Polishness and patriotism. For etnofans, people who come to cheer for EURO 2012 are just a group of “weekend fans"—“Johns" (pl. Janusze), “Andrews," and “picnics"—who are treated by the authorities as representatives of the correct pattern of behavior at the stadium. “True fans" treat them as a threat that can lead to the marginalization of their own practices and to the progressive discrimination of “etnofans" among the “enthusiasts of events." Etnofans are patriots emphasizing their Polishness, but they do not think seriously about the matches of national teams, as they perceive them to be artificial creations, revived from time to time to take part in a specific event. In their meaning “the true football fan" is identified with the local football club.
In the following chaptersother authors contribute to building a multidimensional image of EURO 2012 in Poland. Miroslaw Duchnowski and Elzbieta Anna Sekula analyze the broad range of changes taking place in the public space that are associated with the construction of new sports infrastructure. On one hand, the authors report positive perceptions of the modernization of the urban infrastructure among respondents who predicted the reduction of unemployment, the construction of new roads (or even entire districts around the stadiums), the flood of tourists, increasing prestige of the city, and so forth. On the other hand, many respondents were worried about, for example, the stadiums' potential lack of multifunctionality, the high costs incurred by the cities, the technical mistakes made during the rapid construction of stadiums, and the potential communication paralysis.
Aleksander Litorowicz and Karolina Thel discuss values, ideas, attitudes, and expectations of the residents of the event host cities, for example, the perception of EURO 2012 as a factor that could include the host cities in the category of “normality." Jacek Drozda emphasizes the political and economic aspects of the sport, its strong ideologization including the meaning of religious, historical, or racist fans' “holy wars," and presents a picture of EURO 2012 among Polish Internet users. Next, Jakub Myszkorowski discusses the elements of standardization and locality of the visual and musical identity of EURO 2012. The author presents elements that must be global, standardized, as well as symbols that can reflect the identity of the host countries. Finally, Mariusz Czubaj tries to present stadiums as “epicenters of culture," in which, as through a lens, characteristics of the culture become visible. According to the author, the stadium can be treated as a microcosm condensing social processes that go far beyond the sport competition – for example, the struggles of Polish football fans with the authorities had a differentconnotationunder communism than today.
The novelty of the research is supported by a robust methodology workshop, which makes this polyphonic research reliable and authoritative.The authors of the book not only analyzed the texts of 160 collected interviews but also used official documents related to EURO 2012, studies from the field of historical anthropology, audiovisual documentation, and discourses on the Internet. In addition, the researchers have put into practice the idea of multifocal anthropology (in which the research is conducted in multiple places) by selecting as their research area all of the host cities in Poland for EURO 2012 (Gdańsk, Wrocław, Poznań and Warsaw).
A clear division of articles allows the reader to analyze in detail all the issues related to the cultural changes generated by EURO 2012 in the Polish context and to treat each of the articles as a separate study as well as a part of a bigger research project. The publication's accessible and comprehensible language helps readers unconnected toscientific research become familiar with the subject. Also, the book employs an interesting graphic layout, with many images and high-quality print. Readers can see some of the photos taken by the authors during their research of football fans, stadiums, football symbols, sports paraphernalia, and so on.
The authors in their articles touch on issues that, although very important, are not popular among researchers in general. These are such topics as how the idea of the transformation of civilization is symbolized by stadiums constructed for the purposes of EURO 2012, how these stadiums can affect the sense of local community spirit, what the importance of the new objects will be after EURO 2012, how the preparation for EURO 2012 affects the transformation of urban practices, a sense of national pride, or fans' terms such as “true Polish."
From the point of view of the modern reader, reading this book seems doubly interesting. On one hand, it provokes thoughts about the entire period of preparation for this past “sport holiday." On the other, it encourages us to consider the durability of the described cultural changes from today's perspective. Are the authors' recommendations in terms of creating stadium-related social and cultural practices valuable for us today? Did forecasts from the research prove themselves during the championship? Can insights and suggestions of researchers be helpful for countries-organizers of the EURO? The essays will encourage these and many other questions, being an excellent starting point for further interdisciplinary research of the fascinating part of culture that is sport.