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The Warsaw Voice » Other » December 19, 2007
EURO 2012 - INFRASTRUCTURE
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December 19, 2007   
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Hundreds of kilometers of freeways and expressways, a modern railroad system, dozens of hotels, and a network of modern sports stadiums: the run-up to the Euro 2012 soccer championships is set to spur development in Poland.

The cost to Poland of jointly organizing the games with Ukraine, is likely to run into 27 billion euros, when taking into account stadium building and infrastructure improvements, according to rating agency Fitch. Funds for the event will come from the national budget, local governments and private entrepreneurs. The Polish government recently approved a special bill to speed up Euro 2012 preparations to ensure target dates are met for the completion of the building works needed, stadiums in particular.

Roads

The slow rate at which Poland is building roads has been the subject of many jokes. The championships offer Poland an opportunity to build and modernize its freeway and expressway networks more efficiently. The government has already announced that it will bring its road-building plans forward by two years to complete the project in 2012, and not in 2014. The plans foresee 964 kilometers of freeways built within the next five years at a cost of almost zl.5.8 billion.

Roads linking cities that will host tournament matches, including Warsaw, Gdańsk, Chorzów, Cracow and Wrocław, have the highest priority as do those crossing the country from west to east. The total cost of Poland's road program for 2007-2015, including preparatory work such as land purchase and building projects, repairs to existing roads and road maintenance, is likely to be some zl.164 billion. Of this sum, zl.22.5 billion is earmarked for additional road transport requirements resulting from Poland's hosting of the Euro 2012 championships. The estimated total cost of building new roads and modernizing existing roads is some zl.131.5 billion. That of all road repairs and maintenance is zl.32.5 billion.

The main hurdles to overcome before these plans can come to fruition could be time-consuming legal requirements and a lack of people to do the work. The most urgent reform that is required is the simplification of the currently overcomplicated procedures to purchase land, enter into public contracts and conform to European Union environmental protection standards.

Companies in the building sector are most likely to benefit from Euro 2012, both producers and suppliers of building materials. Aggregate, steel, concrete and cement-the demand will be enormous. Although supposedly the new freeways and roads would have been built anyway, Euro 2012 will speed things up. What might prove a hindrance to the quick building of roads is the lack of workers due to massive emigration of Poles to the "old" EU countries. There could also be a shortage of road building materials now that mild winters make it possible for road builders to continue working without a break all year around. This was apparent in mid-2007 when builders ran out of their supplies of bricks, cement and sand.

Airports

Investment in Polish airports by end-2013 is likely to be over zl.7 billion, according to research firm PMR. Of this sum, almost one-third is earmarked for the building of new regional airports.

Of Poland's existing airports, the biggest investment plans involve those in Cracow, Katowice, Gdańsk, Warsaw and Wrocław.

Poland and Ukraine are in talks to modify air traffic regulations between the two countries.

Trains

In view of Euro 2012, the Polish rail carrier PKP in early December announced modernization plans for 1,200 kilometers of railway lines and 15 railway stations.

One of these railway lines will be that linking Warsaw with Gdańsk. Others will certainly be those linking the southern city of Rzeszów with the Ukrainian border since Ukraine is co-hosting the games with Poland. Besides these, railway lines linking cities such as Warsaw, Gdańsk, Poznań, Wrocław, Cracow and Szczecin, which are hosting championship matches, are also top of the list for modernization.

PKP also plans to create rail links to Warsaw's Okęcie Airport, Balice Airport near Cracow, and Katowice's Pyrzowice Airport. Fifteen railway stations will be modernized including those in Sopot, Gdynia, Szczecin, ŁódĽ, Chorzów and Zabrze. PKP hopes to get funding from the European Union, in particular from the Infrastructure and Environment Operational Program, to cover 75 percent of the modernization costs of railway stations in Cracow, Wrocław and Warsaw.

Hotels and tourism

Some 1.5 million soccer fans from other countries are expected to come to Poland in 2012. Although the hotel sector in Poland is booming, it will require more budget hotels since most soccer supporters will be unable to afford five-star luxury.

The tourism sector is expected to earn millions from organizing Euro 2012. Last year, 15.7 million tourists visited Poland, every one of whom spent $167 here on average.

Experts say Euro 2012 will have an enormous influence on the real estate market in Poland. On the one hand, the infrastructure will improve and many new facilities will be built, but, on the other hand, a rise in building costs is inevitable. The championships are also a stroke of luck for advertising companies. Experts are certain that Euro 2012 will benefit this sector, which has been doing well for the last few years. According to ZenithOptimedia, in Portugal, the country that staged Euro 2004, spending on advertising rose by 7 percent to reach 907 million euros, although the market increased only by 2.2 percent the year before.

Stadiums

Poland's four foremost stadiums that will host Euro 2012 matches will cost some zl.3 billion to build. Warsaw's National Sports Center, on the site of the current Dziesięciolecia Stadium, will cost the most, or some zl.1.25 billion.

Overall, most commentators agree that Euro 2012 is a golden opportunity for Poland and a chance to boost its image in Europe. Economists say that the run-up to the championships could mean five years of unprecedented prosperity for the country.

Konrad Bagiński
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