Warsaw's iconic palm loses leaves in Euro protest

WARSAW Thu Jun 21, 2012 2:26pm EDT

WARSAW (Reuters) - Warsaw's iconic city centre palm tree is almost bare after its creator removed its leaves to protest against what she believes is the city's disregard for social needs amid a huge amount of spending on Euro 2012.

The controversial 15-metre high artificial tree, originally part of an art exhibition but which has become a permanent feature in the city for almost 10 years, is passed by thousands of fans on their way to the National Stadium for matches.

"Instead of a blossoming cultural life and a new building of the museum for modern art we have fun zones, indebted cities, UEFA taking all profits from the event and a huge spectacle of primitive nationalism," Joanna Rajkowska, the artist who created and claims ownership of the palm told the gazeta.pl website on Thursday.

UEFA expects the tournament to generate about 1.3 billion euros ($1.64 billion) in revenue with profits mainly distributed to the 16 participating nations and as solidarity payments to the 53 member associations of European soccer's governing body.

Rajkowska said her action was also triggered by the city's decision to erect a huge white football close to the palm which she claimed violated her rights.

"The palm is a symbol of all that is missing in the vision of city authorities - that is of common good based on a dialogue with the society," Rajkowska said in a statement.

Poland has spent some 20 billion euros ($25 billion) on Euro 2012, which it is co-hosting with Ukraine, and hopes to use the tournament to promote itself as an emerging economic powerhouse in Europe's eastern wing.

But Rajkowska, who endorsed the "Bread instead of games" movement, believes Poland should have used the money to subsidize schools, kindergartens, housing for the poor and other public facilities to counter fiscal austerity in one of the European Union's poorest member countries.

(Reporting by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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