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The Warsaw Voice » Other » December 19, 2007
EURO 2012 - Interview
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All That Plays Into Our Hands
December 19, 2007   
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Adam Olkowicz, vice-chairman of the PZPN Polish soccer association and the man responsible for organizing Euro 2012 in Poland, talks to Danuta Górecka.

You were a member of the Polish delegation at the UEFA meeting in Cardiff, Wales, April 18 when Poland and Ukraine were selected to jointly host Euro 2012. It must have been quite an event.

The memories are great. We and the Ukrainian delegation flew to Cardiff aboard the same plane and were wearing identical suits. We all stayed in the same hotel. Polish President Lech Kaczyński and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko also arrived in Cardiff that day, while the presidents of the countries which were competing with us to host the championships did not show up. Polish and Ukrainian sports celebrities were also in attendance, including onetime Polish track-and-field champion Irena Szewińska and Ukrainian pole vault champ Sergei Bubka, accompanied by the coach of Poland's national soccer team, Leo Beenhakker, and Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin. Also on hand were outstanding soccer players of the past and those who play on the Polish and Ukrainian national teams today.

We won the right to host the championships in the first secret vote by the UEFA Executive Committee. The joint Polish and Ukrainian bid won eight votes out of 12, while the Italian bid got four, and no vote was cast to support the joint Hungarian and Croatian bid.

What does this decision mean to Poland?

The UEFA European championships are the third largest sporting event in the world. Around 6 billion people watched the last European tournament hosted by Portugal in 2004, with live broadcasts attracting a global audience of billions.

The final match played by Portugal and Greece was broadcast live by 239 television stations to 200 countries.

This means that Poland and Ukraine have won a great opportunity for accelerated development in many sectors of the economy and infrastructure, including the construction of sports facilities, such as stadiums and accommodations for athletes, along with the construction of freeways and hotels, modernization of railway lines and expansion of eight airports.

We strongly believe that, in addition to being an organizational success, the championships will also turn out to be our great sporting success. We would like our national team to be as successful as possible in the tournament. Optimists are dreaming of a "Slavic final," with Poland and Ukraine playing the final match.

What is particularly important is that by then we will have six new stadiums that will be friendly to both players and fans, safe and complete with facilities. We would like our club teams to be as successful as our national team. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in recent years.

The PZPN faces huge tasks in the context of Euro 2012. How are you going to cope with them?

For the time being, we have signed five types of agreements related to Euro 2012 preparations. The first type of agreements are those signed with hotels-we have already secured more than 10,000 hotel beds for the needs of the championships. The second kind are agreements with airports-all the airports with which we have signed the agreements promised to operate around the clock and considerably increase their passenger handling capacity. Third, we have signed agreements with the stadium owners, under which they will make the stadiums available for a payment to the Euro 2012 organizers for the duration of the tournament. In the case of the stadiums which have yet to be built, the agreements have been signed with the investors. Fourth, we have signed agreements with the cities that will be hosting the championships-these municipalities have committed themselves to preparing the city infrastructure to meet the needs of tens of thousands of soccer fans. Finally, there is the so-called organization agreement signed by the presidents of the two national soccer federations and confirmed by the two countries' prime ministers.

Has UEFA already started to monitor the preparations for the event?

In November alone, we had five visits from the UEFA headquarters and the same was the case with our Ukrainian counterparts. UEFA officials were interested in stadiums, accommodations, road and air transport, hotels and medical support. For the time being, they are not evaluating our work. They will prepare a report from these visits for UEFA. It will be submitted to Poland and Ukraine early next year. We will have to carry out all the recommendations contained in the report by a set deadline.

Have Polish soccer players started their preparations as well?

Three areas of activity have been chosen to prepare our players for Euro 2012. The first one involves the promotion of the championships within the soccer community through matches and tournaments of various kinds. In the summer, hundreds of tournaments were held to popularize Euro 2012 among children and young people. The flagship event is Europokolenie 2012, a Polish-Ukrainian tournament held annually since 2005 and attended by 12 teams representing Euro 2012 host cities-six Polish cities and six Ukrainian cities. The tournament has already been held in Cracow, Kiev and Wrocław. Next year it will he hosted by a Ukrainian city.

Second, we have worked out a Polish soccer development strategy that we are now submitting for approval to national and local government authorities. In this context, Prime Minister Donald Tusk's initiative, "A Pitch in Every Commune," is especially valuable. We plan to build around 2,000 new pitches with accompanying facilities.

Third, we would really like to do well in this tournament. But being the co-host, we will qualify automatically along with Ukraine, and will not be taking part in the qualifying round. This means we have to select our partners for friendlies wisely to make sure our national team is in top form when the tournament begins.

How much will Euro 2012 cost?

An estimated 50,000 new jobs will be created. Tourists are expected to spend some 1 billion euros in Poland during the tournament. The European championships also bring profits to their main organizer, the UEFA. Its revenue from the latest tournament in Portugal came to the tune of 819 million euros. UEFA spends this money to develop soccer in its 53 member states. One thing is certain-none of the tournaments held so far has generated a loss.

When will the presidents of Poland and Ukraine declare Euro 2012 open?

In all probability, the first match of the tournament, to be preceded by splendid opening ceremonies, will be played in Warsaw on its new National Stadium on Saturday, June 9, 2012. This date is not yet official, but the "logic of the calendar" makes it most likely.
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