Saturday, 26 May 2012

Data roaming, the unexpected cost of Euro 2012

SO now we know which footballers will be going to represent England at Euro 2012, attention turns to the sort of experience supporters can expect from the trip.
If I were going to Ukraine (and I’d like to) I’d rather do it when the place wasn’t filling up with visiting football fans. But we’ll pass on that.
Overall, I expect the tournament to be quite entertaining, throw up a few surprises, and for England to do moderately well but not win it. That’s all par for the course.
There are some distinctly new worries, though, about the travelling fans. And for once it isn’t tedious old clich├ęs about “English hooligans” that are filling the airwaves and the column inches.
The expressed concerns seem roughly to break down into three categories: travel and accommodation, social problems, and technology.
Anyone planning on going to the games really ought to have sorted out the first category by now.
The biggest problem may lie in the fact that many fans are expected to base themselves, like the England team, in Poland. Which is rather a long way from the eastern Ukraine, where two of the three England fixtures so far confirmed will be played.
In fact, Krakow is the same distance from Donetsk (820 miles) as it is from Ipswich – not a journey to be undertaken unprepared or too often.
Most supporters won’t have the team’s advantage of a private plane at their disposal.
That’s why the Ukrainian authorities are thoughtfully setting up campsites for weary fans, which might be a lot of fun, and then again…
Once there, the social worry can be summed up in one word: racism.
Or in one faintly surreal headline (which, as it happens, I wrote myself): “Donetsk the ‘least racist’ of Euro 2012 host cities”.
Which is perhaps good news (relatively) for England’s black fans (and players). Though it does occur to me that all the stories about “racist east Europeans” have themselves got more than a smack of racism about them.
And technology? This is where it gets seriously surreal.
I’ve just been listening to a long, involved discussion of what one might have thought was the worst trouble lying in store for those England followers heading off into the Slavic wilds. Their mobile phone bills could be huge.
This, apparently, is all to do with Ukraine being outside the European Union, and therefore not covered by EU-based tariffs.
One sober piece of advice was this: Turn off data searching.
Which sort of makes sense to someone (me) who still accesses the internet through a computer and uses his phone for making phone calls.
Basically, don’t let your phone connect to the net automatically without your permission. Because if it decides to go online from not-very-racist Donetsk, your phone company will sting you.
Another piece of advice, which was offered seriously and will no doubt be widely ignored, was: Don’t upload lots of video to YouTube and Facebook.
I might add to that the word “ever”. Because almost all of it is very, very boring, possibly the greatest waste of time, technology and server-space yet devised.
Whatever japes you get up to in that campsite, or the local bars, might be fun at the time, but will make tedious viewing.
And for action footage from the stadium, you won’t be able to compete with the BBC. The people in their armchairs back home will see every detail of the game much more clearly than you do.
In fact, my advice to travelling fans about their phones would be this: take it for emergency use, by all means, but use it in emergencies only.
After all, humankind has managed for nearly all of its existence without mobile phones. Right up to about Euro 2000 for most of us.
As for data searching, apps and Twitter, I don’t recall them being an issue at Euro 2008.
And talking of things that won’t be needed at Euro 2012 – Robert Green, anyone? Andy Carroll? Ashley Young?
Or those things you’ll wish you’d taken. Most obviously, Peter Crouch. And a proper right-back –  Graham Taylor forgot to take one with him to Euro 92, and look where that got him.
And then there’s the manager. Unless England surpass expectations (which for once seem modest) under Roy Hodgson, this will forever be the tournament we’ll look back on and think: I wonder what it would have been like with Harry in charge?


THE future never turns out to be quite what you expect.
Who would have thought a few years ago that a teenage girl would cause a national sensation in 2012 by winning a talent contest with her performing dog?
One of the joys of science fiction written, or filmed, a few years ago is spotting what they got right, and what they got delightfully wrong.
The other day I saw, for the first time, The Running Man, an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie from 1987.
Its 2017 setting still looked, in some ways, weirdly futuristic – though a future in which clothing and hair styles still seemed oddly stuck in the 1980s.
But its theme of a “reality” TV gameshow, with a powerful and sinister host whipping up an uncritical audience into dangerous hysteria, was horribly prescient.

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