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The Warsaw Voice » Society » November 25, 2011
Politics & Society
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We Know We Can Succeed
November 25, 2011   
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Marcin Herra, CEO of the PL.2012 company, which is coordinating Poland’s preparations for the Euro 2012 soccer championships, talks to Witold Żygulski.

One way of looking at Euro 2012 is as a huge sporting event that is a logistical challenge for the hosts. But it is also a giant project capable of spurring the country’s development, perhaps only comparable to Poland joining the EU. What has changed in Poland since the day UEFA President Michel Platini opened an envelope and read: “Pologne et Ukraine?”
It has been four-and-a-half years since that happened and it has been time well spent. The infrastructure sector is obviously where changes have been the easiest to notice. When Poland was selected to co-organize the championships, we set about making plans to build stadiums in Gdańsk, Poznań, Wrocław and Warsaw, and today soccer matches are already played at three of these stadiums and the fourth, the National Stadium in Warsaw, will open in a matter of days. New terminals are changing Poland’s airport infrastructure and there are still construction sites in the four host cities in Poland. Roads are being modernized across the country; streets leading to the stadiums and from the stadiums to airports are being redeveloped; and cities are building beltways and new bridges. It would not be an overstatement to say that the Euro 2012 project will cause a major qualitative change in the functioning of the host cities.

Poland is also building freeways which are required for the Euro 2012 championships to progress well, and are the only way to radically improve the travel comfort for all Polish citizens and visitors to Poland. Things have dramatically gained momentum in this department and the same is true of railroads, which have been undergoing extensive modernization so that next year, a train ride from Warsaw to, for instance, Gdańsk should not take longer than elsewhere in Europe on average.

The number of Euro 2012-related projects totals 300, of which 80 are projects of key importance, worth around zl.80 billion. It is noteworthy that the stadiums account for a mere 5 percent of that, while the rest are public projects and many of these involve EU structural funds.

In July 2008, we presented UEFA with our Euro 2012 preparations master plan and back then it was all still just “on paper.” We said what stadiums we wanted to build, when new terminals would be ready at airports, what roads we would construct, and when our cities would change and how. When Michel Platini came to Poland recently, we talked at the completed venues, drove on newly opened roads and flew over the remaining construction sites to see how advanced the projects were. What three-and-a-half years ago was just a plan is reality now. Over the days that remain to the Euro 2012 opening match, people in Poland will witness even more changes happen around them, with more projects coming to completion, projects that will serve all of us for many years to come.

What key challenges await Poland in the time leading up to the opening match in Warsaw?
Whether Poland will be seen as a good and successful Euro 2012 host naturally depends on the quality of the championships and that is the question of transportation, safety and services provided to soccer fans and other visitors. Around 1 million people will come to Poland and television coverage will aired to 170 countries worldwide. For three weeks, several thousand journalists will file daily reports not only on soccer, but also on business, culture and tourism. All that time, the system we have been working on will have to function without fail. I have to make it clear—we are all the hosts of the Euro 2012 championships. Whether they work with Euro 2012 guests or are ordinary passers-by, all residents of Gdańsk, Poznań, Wrocław and Warsaw will meet soccer fans on a regular basis. It is up to all those people what the general feel of the championships will be like and what impression of Poland the visitors will take home with them. I believe this is just as important as a good infrastructure and organization. We have been working on this very hard and this is why we have developed an elaborate volunteer system comprising thousands of Poles, who are getting ready to work for those who will come to root for their teams in Poland.

This is the first time Poland has undertaken a project of such magnitude. Would you say that the new organizational system that has been built for Euro 2012 can be used to further modernize the country in the future?
A comprehensive project like this necessitates precise management. There is more to Euro 2012 than the infrastructure, as there are also issues of logistics, security, all kinds of services for visitors, tourist information, medical care and so on. It all has to play together well, like a big band. We studied the best practices of our predecessors—Austria and Switzerland, which co-organized the Euro 2008 championships, and Germany, which hosted the 2006 world soccer championships—and came to the obvious conclusion that you first have to set a goal for yourself, formulate a clear schedule and assign everyone with specific tasks. Team spirit is the key to success and this is what we have achieved. Four big cities are working as one team, sharing good ideas and warning one another against mistakes that can be made. The Euro 2012 project is now a joint effort by 173 institutions, including central agencies, local government and nongovernmental organizations. We have launched a special online project portfolio management tool in 80 institutions. A total of 22,400 individual tasks are being monitored as we speak, which allows us to not only assess each project but also, and that is very important, see how different projects interact with one another.

Our rule of thumb is to work at a steady pace. This is a long-term project where effects are produced through day-to-day work at grassroots level rather than spectacular measures. The beauty of what we do is that at on more and more occasions, we realize that where a couple of years back we asked ourselves “Can we make it?” Today we can say “We absolutely can.” We now know that we can succeed and we all remember how many skeptics there were back when Poland was chosen to co-organize Euro 2012.
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