Wroclaw's tenure as the European Capital of Culture got off to a shaky start yesterday after huge chunks of the audience abandoned the troubled opening ceremony.
What started as four colourful parades surrounded by upbeat well-wishers, soon turned into a damp squib due to a 45 minute delay in the start of the finale on the market square.
Thousands eagerly waited in the cold only to be left completely in the dark by the organisers, who failed to communicate how long the delay would be. By the time the finale got under-way, some of the audience had already left. By the time it finished, the sparsely populated crowd was almost reminiscent of the empty stands at Slask Wroclaw matches.
After some time the bell did ring out to symbolise Wroclaw becoming the European Capital Of Culture, however alarm bells must surely have been ringing at Wroclaw 2016 HQ following the exodus of the audience. This should surely act as their wake up call.
The farce has caused the quality of Wroclaw 2016's organisation and communication to be called into question by hundreds of online users, who took to social media to air their views last night. A quick read of the comments on Wroclaw 2016's feedback page reveals that roughly 90% of respondents were disappointed with the event.
The words from one of the respondents, which is shown below, was typical of the negative reaction on the aforementioned feedback page.
"Disappointment and disgust. The idea was interesting, but in terms of the organisation it was complete flop. It was cold and the show was drawn out, we indefinitely waited for the finale and the view was poor.
We invited friends to Wroclaw for this day and we felt genuinely embarrassed by the level of organisation of the event. The biggest disappointment? The organizers held a party for themselves and for the media. Absolutely no one cared about the people who came to participate in the event."
Naturally, such events do attract a few negative comments from killjoys and people who have had a grudge against the project from the start. However, the criticism is far from being exclusive to this group. Even the enthusiastic Krzysztof Majewski, who promotes local culture on Radio Ram and Radio Wroclaw Kultura, admitted the opening ceremony was a disappointment:
"The finale on the Rynek was totally confusing, I could hear everything but barely see just 10 rows away from the stage. The fires where you could keep warm throughout the opening weekend were great, but the finale finished in a dull fashion, with the crowd freezing and bored. It was better to watch on the big screen, because from there you could see everything.
I think the spectacle was a trance, however the magic absolutely did not work for a mass audience. People were watching but I could also see crowds ebbing away from the Rynek. I had a great deal of optimism for this project, but unfortunately the longer it wore on the worse it got."
Krzysztof Majewski, Radio Ram and Radio Wroclaw Kultura
The criticism was also clearly visible on Wroclaw 2016's Facebook profile, where the administrator had a frantic evening responding to disappointed members of the audience:
* comments translated electronically
Despite the overwhelming amount of negative feedback, Wroclaw 2016 organisers turned a blind eye and sent out a press email today labeling the opening ceremony a "success".
Of course, it must be said that there were those who did enjoy the event. The four parades in particular were lapped up by those who spoke positively about the opening ceremony, with the choir singing on the roof of the Contemporary Art Museum representing one of the highlights. It is also important to stress the dedication, passion and hard work of the volunteers who took part in the opening ceremony and did everything they could to make it special. Some of the drone footage on the live stream looked spellbinding too.
Choir singers on the big screen (photocredit Ania Cerelczak)
Even so, there seems to be a feeling among some audience members that this was a 'made for YouTube' ceremony that will eventually look superb on a promo video but in fact appeared rather bland in front of the live audience.
Sadly, yesterday's events will do nothing to dispel the rumours about Wroclaw 2016's organisers. The gossip about the European Capital of Culture being a group of friends and friends of friends has been audible for some time in Wroclaw's cultural bars and cafes – and now the voices will inevitably grow louder. There is nothing to prove the rumours of course, but while the organisational failures persist, clouds will continue to hover over Wroclaw 2016.
On top of the disappointment at the opening ceremony yesterday, Wroclaw Uncut has learned of other failures over the weekend. According to one volunteer, who spoke to us anonymously for fear of losing his position, the coordination was worryingly poor. Volunteers were said to be left standing in the cold doing little else than handing out leaflets, while some team members with poor English skills were allegedly given the task of escorting members of the international media.
Wroclaw 2016 also embarrassingly tweeted an image with a spelling mistake (AWAKANING instead of AWAKENING). They have since apologised and deleted the tweet. These mistakes do happen of course, and we are as guilty as anyone when it comes to typos. However, given the resources at Wroclaw 2016's disposal and the importance of getting everything right on the opening night, it was a shame to see such a gaffe.
Despite the negativity in today's article, we must stress that Wroclaw Uncut are very much in the 'lets get behind Wroclaw 2016' lobby. However we desperately want this year to be a success for the city and when mistakes occur it is simply not right to ignore them.
Thankfully, after yesterday's events the Wroclaw 2016 team still have a few months to get things back on track before this year of culture gets up to full speed. This is a great opportunity for Wroclaw and there is time for everyone involved to get things right. So let's keep our fingers crossed for a terrific 2016!