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The Warsaw Voice » Other » December 19, 2007
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Playing to Win
December 19, 2007   
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Mirosław Drzewiecki, minister of sports and tourism, talks to Urszula Imienińska.

A consortium of JSK Architekci Sp. z o.o. and GMP Architekten has been selected to design the new National Stadium in Warsaw. What was the rationale behind this choice?

The decisive factor was the vast experience of this consortium. The company has designed many venues in Germany, in cities such as Berlin and Düsseldorf, in China, South Korea, as well as three arenas for the upcoming world soccer championships in South Africa. JSK will also design the new Legia stadium in Warsaw and has already come up with the design of an Euro 2012 stadium in Wrocław. Besides, they know the Polish market because they have worked in Poland before, and it is a Polish-German company.

The studio has tremendous potential, as it employs around 400 architects and engineers. The consortium declares that once the contract is signed, the design will be ready in six months. Construction will be handled by the Narodowe Centrum Sportu (National Sports Center) company, which will now have time to negotiate the contract. If the negotiations are unsuccessful, the procedure of selecting the designer will be repeated.

The stadium should be completed in the second quarter of 2011 as part of the national sports center, which will also consist of a sports arena, a hotel and offices. Construction has to begin at the beginning of 2009 at the latest, the tender for a general contractor will be launched in the summer of 2008. The state budget earmarks zl.60 million for the construction project next year.

Unfortunately, certain preparation stages cannot be skipped, because Polish procurement procedures are as they are. We have to consider legislative changes to facilitate tenders.

Where will the National Stadium be located?

The factor that determines the choice of location of the National Stadium was the result of geotechnical research. Test bore holes reaching 30 meters into the ground are a standard procedure before you build such a large facility, and in all probability the new stadium will be constructed on the site of the Dziesięciolecia Stadium. It is the best place.

The stadium needs to be very functional, as apart from soccer matches, we will be holding various other big events there, such as music concerts. The stadium complex will have 100,000 square meters in surface area, with room for offices, conference rooms, restaurants and a modern conference center for 10,000 people. Warsaw lacks a large business meeting venue like that. There will also be a new 40-story building, the tallest office tower in Warsaw.

The JSK design matched the requirements of Warsaw and UEFA the most. As for UEFA requirements, the designers prepared the right locker room arrangement and media sectors to optimize the contact of the press with the players. The stadium will also have a V.I.P. box and special boxes for business executives.

What sort of impact will the tournament have on Polish and Ukrainian societies?

The decision to grant Poland and Ukraine the right to jointly host the European championships will allow the two countries to embark on a new route of development. This is what you can read in Ukrainian newspapers, this is also what Ukrainian citizens think and how they feel. I could find that out for myself on my recent trip to Ukraine in December. Ukrainians are happy that the joint Polish-Ukrainian bid has won, but at the same time they are talking about the tremendous effort and investment needed to organize Euro 2012. They also say that the event will bring enormous benefits.

Skeptics say Poland will not complete its preparations for the event on time. What should be done to prevent delays in construction projects? Where could the delays occur? Will we bring in Chinese workers to help?

A special organizing committee will be set up soon, headed by an apolitical manager with lots of credibility and experience in managing a large enterprise. This committee will take care of the organization of Euro 2012 from the beginning to the end.

Halfway through 2010, UEFA will check the state of our preparations for Euro 2012. I am convinced that if all the projects, not just the sports venues, progress satisfactorily, we will be able to negotiate the postponement of the completion deadline on the National Stadium until 2011. Don't forget that we are building the roads and the whole infrastructure not for Euro 2012, but for Poland. Euro 2012 is just a powerful boost that may help the country develop.

As for any possible delays, at some point it may simply turn out that we are running out of labor force. That is why we have been seriously considering the Chinese proposal. One year before the Olympic Games, China has almost everything ready. It would be wise to use their experience so that we can complete our preparations for the event on time. Economists say the Chinese proposal may really make sense and could become a godsend for Poland. This is no wild theory: Chinese companies are all set to come to Poland with thousands of employees at any time. They will take care of the logistics too.

Economic analyses show that Polish builders may be unable to manage with Euro 2012 on their own, as there are simply too few of them in Poland. Companies in Germany and other European Union member states have no interest in working here, as we pay too little. The Ukrainians have to take care of their own stadiums, while help from Belarus is out of the question for political reasons. In Russia, on the other hand, wages in the construction sector are good these days. Help from China is thus well worth considering, especially as those are companies with a proven reputation when it comes to logistics and keeping deadlines.

Security during Euro 2012 is one of the most important projects. What plans does the sports ministry have in this area?

I believe Polish soccer supporters will make the grade during Euro 2012, and we do not have to worry about how they will behave. These days you no longer see animosities between soccer fan clubs at matches of the national team. This process has been going on for some time and nothing seems to suggest this could change. Members of various soccer fan clubs in cities expected to host Euro 2012 are offering their help in organizing the event. They want to be volunteers and assist staff. They say they will seek to persuade the Euro 2012 organizers to change the security system at matches and model it after the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where the involvement of police forces was limited and yet there was peace and order. It is important to work closer with the Ukrainians because of the different structure of security services in Poland and Ukraine, different legislation and even different operation strategies. We are facing an immense challenge. Potential threats include illegal border crossing, petty crimes, cyber crime, vandalism and terrorism. It is vital to compile a comprehensive legal act on security at public events.

For a long time, the Polish police has worked with the police forces of other European countries, not only during big events such as the World Cup in Germany, but also during individual international matches. For example, at a Euro 2008 qualifier in Brussels, the Belgian police used data provided by Polish officers to detain around 50 hooligans, thus preventing riots in the city center. We have struck agreements with Austria and Switzerland, the host countries of Euro 2008, and during next year's championships Poland will send 100 police officers to Austria and Switzerland to work with the local police forces.

What are other challenges for the sports ministry? What about the soccer pitches Prime Minister Donald Tusk promised to build in his policy speech?

We have taken a serious approach to reviving and encouraging sports activities among young people. Every municipality will have a soccer pitch, and the pitches will be like a seal of a certain standard everywhere. They will all have artificial turf, a volleyball and a basketball court, and a running track complete with decent locker rooms and staff rooms. We will be looking out for gifted athletes, talented kids so that they do not have to go around kicking the ball on the street or in drab concrete courtyards. I grew up in a building with such a courtyard in ŁódĽ, on Jaracza Street. Euro 2012 is a major nationwide effort that will spur the construction of roads, freeways and railways. A soccer pitch in every community is something that will benefit every family and every kid.

Euro 2012 will really start in Poland with Euro 2008. Next year, we will establish "fan-zones" for soccer supporters in communities, towns and cities, wherever necessary. Soccer supporters will get together before large TV screens mounted in the fan-zones to watch and celebrate Euro 2008 matches in Switzerland and Austria.
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