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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » October 14, 2009
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Euro 2012: More Than Three Weeks
October 14, 2009   
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Marcin Herra, head of the PL2012 company charged with coordinating Poland's preparations to host the Euro 2012 soccer championships, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

With less than 1,000 days left to the European soccer championships, what is your biggest challenge?
Before I talk about the challenges, I would like to mention our highlights. First of all, we have made huge progress in preparations since the beginning of last year. This is the biggest and most complex project in Poland, with at least 90 institutions involved, hundreds of operational and investment projects. At the same time, it is a long project. So one of the biggest challenges is to keep up the momentum and keep people motivated over a longer period.

Secondly, we have 360 investment projects for the championships that are worth 70 billion euros: 160 are currently in the construction phase. We still have more than 50 percent which are at the stage of choosing a contractor. So it is important to continue to be motivated and keep everything under control, especially timelines and work quality.

The biggest challenge I think is to change people's mentality. This is a huge and difficult project; there are hundreds of risks and problems. We have to think how to solve problems and not just talk about them. And finding the way of moving things ahead is the real challenge. It is important to show that Poland is capable of achieving what it promised, that Poles are trustworthy partners in business.

Has the global economic crisis impacted on building and investment plans for the championships?
Yes, in a positive way. For example, project tender quotes went down by 30-40 percent. So that means that we can afford more than before the crisis.

Secondly, the competition is bigger among companies, so we can choose better quality for less money. Thirdly, efficiency and effectiveness are good words, but normally when the economy is stable, it is very difficult to define these words. But during the crisis, people are really looking for ways to use the synergy effect-how we can do more together rather than individually.

Of course, there are also difficult areas. For example, it is more difficult to find finance for investment projects. It is more time consuming and difficult for investors to set up financial consortiums. Also, some companies decided to postpone their projects.

How many volunteers will be recruited for the tournament and where are they being recruited from?
We will recruit and train about 7,000 volunteers and 60-70 percent of them will be locals, unlike in Austria and Switzerland two years ago, where only about 20 percent were locals. That is because knowledge of foreign languages in Poland is much higher than in many other European countries, especially among the under-25 age group.

We see this volunteer program as a means of changing the community's mentality, to show that doing something for the community is important and meaningful. Also, we want to use the European championships as a catalyst for creating opportunities for people from smaller towns and villages; to give them an opportunity to improve their foreign language skills. Even if in the end they are not chosen as volunteers they will have had an opportunity to improve their skills and that will be a legacy for the future. The championships take place only over a three-week period. It is much more important how people will live after the games.

How does PL2012 work with the Warsaw Destination Alliance (WDA) to promote Warsaw?
Our major joint involvement centers around monitoring the hotel and accommodation situation. One of our most important projects will be to promote the entire country, and we will start in earnest just after the championships in South Africa next year. We will develop synergies with the WDA, because it is not just about soccer, but about promoting Polish tourism, Polish business and Polish cultural opportunities. Of course, we will work with other Polish cities as well.
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