Fri, Apr 20, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Poles, Ukrainians have their work cut out for Euro 2012

AFP , WARSAW

Poland and Ukraine will have their work cut out preparing for Euro 2012, facing a mammoth task of getting their stadiums, transport and hotels up to scratch, as well as overcoming a legacy of hooliganism and graft.

Organizers insist they will roll up their sleeves in order to ensure the success of the football championships, after Poland and its eastern neighbor's shock win over Italy and fellow joint bidders Hungary and Croatia in the race to host the quadrennial tournament.

In the lead up to Wednesday's decision by UEFA at a meeting in Cardiff, the Polish-Ukrainian bidders spared no effort to calm jitters.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski travelled to the Welsh capital with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to make an 11th-hour pitch for their bid.

After the announcement, Kaczynski took stock of what needed to be done.

"We must not forget the enormity of the task of organizing Euro 2012, but that is also excellent news for Poland. There will be new stadiums built in Warsaw, Gdansk, Wroclaw and Poznan. That can only be seen in a positive light," Kaczynski said.

"Five years is long enough and I am sure that with the mobilization and determination of the local authorities and the people, we will succeed," he said.

It will be the first time either Poland or Ukraine have hosted a major soccer championship.

Polish authorities said last week that around 26 billion euros (US$35 billion), including EU financing, have been earmarked to upgrade infrastructure.

Outside major cities, particularly in Ukraine, good hotels are hard to come by -- or at least in sufficient numbers to cater for tens of thousands of fans, journalists and soccer officials.

Polish football is also blighted by hooliganism.

Fears that Polish fans would cause trouble at last year's World Cup in neighboring Germany led to a massive police operation in both countries, although in the end the hooligans stayed away.

At home, however, it could be a different story.

In addition, Polish soccer's image has been dented by corruption.

A two-year-old match-fixing scandal has led to more than 60 arrests, including several referees, a member of the Polish Football Association leadership and a string of club officials.

In Ukraine, meanwhile, foreign embassies regularly warn their citizens about the risk of attacks by skinheads. Poland also has a flourishing far right.

Although Ukraine is currently locked in political crisis pitting supporters of the president and prime minister, its opposing forces are united about Euro 2012.

Four Ukrainian cities selected as venues have already started preparations including upgrading their existing soccer facilities.

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