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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » May 20, 2009
Euro 2012
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Poland's Chance To Be a Player
May 20, 2009   
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Marcin Herra, chairman of the PL2012 company charged with coordinating Poland's preparations to host the Euro 2012 soccer championships, talks to Urszula Imienińska and Andrzej Jonas.

The end of April marked two years since Poland and Ukraine were selected to jointly host the European soccer championships. And it's been a year since you became CEO of the PL2012 company, which is handling preparations for the event. How would you sum up this time in terms of Euro 2012-related projects?
Now is a good time to sum up because we are finally past the stage of discussions and declarations, and you can actually see construction work going on. The National Stadium, being built on the site of the former Dziesięciolecia Stadium in Warsaw, will be completed 24 months from now.

What's been the most difficult part of your job?
The need to deal with national pessimism. Initially, eight in 10 people in Poland doubted the championships could really take place in Poland; they were convinced we would make a typical Polish mess of it. Today, six in 10 Poles believe the championships will indeed be held in this country. You have to realize that there are 350 projects in progress as we speak, including stadiums, airports, railways, beltways, hotels and other facilities in a variety of sectors including infrastructure, telecommunications, security, promotion, copyright protection, and medical care. Most projects are being carried out by local authorities; some are being handled by the central government, and others by public and private companies.

Will the global economic crisis derail Poland's preparations for Euro 2012?
I can actually see upsides of the financial crisis. Last summer, many expected that there would be serious difficulties in finding not only workers, but also companies to build stadiums, railway stations and roads. This is no longer a problem and the prices of construction materials and services have dropped. Every new stadium under construction means at least 1,000 new jobs [...] The crisis has actually been helping us, as the costs of individual projects have declined. As bidding procedures end, it turns out that companies interested in building stadiums are ready to do that for much less than we expected. This means that we have been able to achieve much more with the same amount of funds.

Is Ukraine keeping up?
UEFA officials are making sure it is, and just like in the case of Poland, they have been watching the schedule and progress of work in Ukraine. The championships will be held in Poland and Ukraine, because the two countries are determined not to squander the unique opportunity they have.

The championships will last three weeks. How will the Euro 2012 venues be used after the event ends?
By the end of this year we will select a company to operate the National Stadium. We want this to be a company that already manages stadiums in other countries as well. In this way, it will be easier to bring big events to the Warsaw stadium in the future.

Euro 2012 is a huge promotional opportunity for Poland in terms of both business and tourism. Will Poland be able to take full advantage of it? Will tourists who come here for Euro 2012 want to visit this country again?
An estimated 2-2.5 million people will visit Poland during Euro 2012; around 70-80 percent of them will be first-time visitors. If Poland is short of hotels, people will only come here for one day during the championships. That is a real challenge-to make soccer fans and tourists stay a little longer and want to come back. This is, naturally, a task for cities, local government and tourist organizations-to prepare tourist attractions and to sell people on them.

We are spending billions of zlotys on modern stadiums. And it's high time we did so, because two whole decades have passed since the country emerged from communism. Poland is about to enter the global market as a new player on the market for big sports and cultural events.
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