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After delays and dashed hopes, wait is over and Euro 2020 party is here | Jonathan Liew

Italy, the first country in Europe to be hit by Covid, host Turkey in the tournament’s opening match, with both hoping to go far

The first thing you notice about Rome on the eve of Europe’s biggest carnival is that it does not exactly feel like a place on the verge of a carnival. Instead, like every other major city in these straitened, saddened times, it’s simply trying to survive: to get by, to salvage what’s left of what we used to call normality. The piazzas and cobbled alleys that would normally be thronged with tourists at the height of summer are populated mostly by smoking teenagers and waiters touting for business that isn’t there. If the start of Euro 2020 is intended as “a sign of rebirth and hope for all of Europe”, as the tournament commissioner Daniele Frongia insists, then in another sense it stands as a reminder of what we’ve all lost.

And so to the Stadio Olimpico on a sweltering Friday night, and an occasion that has been five years in the making. Italy’s national stadium will be only a quarter full for their opening game against Turkey, and yet the hope is that the 16,000 masked and tested fans in attendance will provide something all too painfully absent in recent months: a sense of gathering and celebration, a country and a continent slowly rediscovering their voice.

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