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The Warsaw Voice » Business » May 31, 2012
UEFA EURO 2012
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Have fun, feel safe
May 31, 2012   
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As one of the world’s biggest sports events, the European soccer championships are a major security challenge.

When a series of bomb blasts rocked the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk at the end of April, leaving almost 30 injured—in what the authorities described as an “act of terrorism”—many worried that the approaching Euro 2012 tournament would be marred. Poland, which is hosting the championships jointly with Ukraine, has launched a massive security operation in an attempt to make sure the tournament runs smoothly.

“Have fun, feel safe” is the motto of the organizers of the Euro 2012 tournament. More than a million visitors from across Europe and beyond are expected to travel to Poland for the event, according to some of the more optimistic forecasts. Their sense of security, or lack of it, will to a large degree determine the way they see Poland and whether they will want to return in the future as tourists.

Thousands of police
More than 10,000 policemen will be directly involved in work to provide security during the soccer tournament. In Warsaw alone, more than 2,600 police will be stationed. In Gdańsk, there will be more than 1,300 officers; in Poznań over 1,600, and in Wrocław 1,400. Also, more policemen than usual will be patrolling the streets of Cracow (over a thousand in all), Rzeszów (707), and Lublin (727). An additional 663 police officers will form what is referred to as a central reserve. In addition to stadiums, official UEFA sites, team bases, the places where the referees will be living and the international broadcasting center will also be covered by protection.

On the minus side, the Polish authorities have not managed to launch an integrated emergency system with a toll-free 112 telephone line in all the host cities. During the championships, only the basic version of this system will be operational. The system is more developed in Poznań and Wrocław, and less developed in Gdańsk and Warsaw. This means that callers dialing 112 will have to wait longer for their call to be put through. Moreover, they will not always be able to get in touch with the operations management center jointly run by the police, the emergency medical service and the fire department.

No one will be left without help
Every public event with a mass audience carries the risk of not only minor injuries sustained by individual participants, but also a major incident. Polish medical services say they are prepared for both scenarios. In each host city, reference hospitals with emergency, surgery and trauma wards have been designated. In all these hospitals, the supplies of drugs, dressing material and other medical items have been increased; staff have undergone special training in terms of potential incidents related to Euro 2012. There are also more ambulances, medical helicopters and hospital beds available. In Warsaw alone, 300 extra hospital beds have been prepared at a cost of zl.3.8 million. Warsaw has assigned an additional zl.2 million for medical services in fan zones.

In order to guarantee security during the tournament, an extra 23 emergency medical units have been set up in the host cities. Four additional teams will also operate in the Podkarpackie region near the Ukrainian border, and an extra two in Cracow.

Beginning June 1, an around-the-clock Operations Staff will be operating out of the Ministry of Health. As part of this system, the Chief Sanitary Inspector, Chief Pharmaceutical Inspector, National Blood Center, Regional Crisis Management Centers, the Office for the Registration of Medicinal Products, Medical Devices and Biocides, and the National Institute of Public Health/State Institute of Hygiene, will be on alert and work together 24 hours a day.

According to estimates by Warsaw City Hall officials, an extra 2,000 or so visits to doctors and medical staff will be made in the capital during the tournament, some of them by individuals from countries beyond Poland’s eastern border.

Hospitals will have to be prepared for problems in securing payment for treating individuals from non-European Union countries, experts say. In some places, payment card terminals have even been installed in case patients do not have cash on them. But in an emergency, help will be provided to those who need it before they are asked about insurance cover, officials say.

Volunteers of all countries...
No major event can be held these days without the help of volunteers. They are indispensable not only during logistic operations, but also to provide information, help and advice. Almost 25,000 individuals have volunteered to work during Euro 2012. The oldest volunteer was 80 years old, the youngest 17.

The UEFA Euro 2012 Official Volunteer Program was officially launched in Poland a year ago, with the help of celebrities including Jerzy Dudek, a former Poland goalkeeper who once played for Liverpool and Real Madrid. On Oct. 16, the last day when applications from candidates for volunteers were accepted, a total of 23,965 applications from 142 countries arrived, including 12,562 (43%) from Poland, 40% from Ukraine, 2% from Russia, 2% from Italy, and 1% each from Germany and Spain. Citizens of other countries put together accounted for the remaining 11% of the applications. In all, 57% of the applicants were women, and 43% men.

During Euro 2012, some 5,500 volunteers will be supporting UEFA staff in Poland and Ukraine. They will be helping out at the stadiums, airports and hotels. All of them will be covered by insurance and receive souvenirs related to the event instead of cash.

Alongside the UEFA volunteer program, the host cities are recruiting their own volunteers to work at information points and fan zones. They are also tasked with providing fans with information at special information desks at airports, train stations, parking lots, and fan zones. Volunteers will also be operating hotlines, supporting municipal services in the event of language problems and helping out at the press center.

For (real) soccer fans only
The largest groups of fans will be concentrated around stadiums and in fan zones. UEFA recommends that fan zones should be organized in city centers to allow fans to watch all the matches live for free. In addition to live television broadcasts from the soccer fields, concerts, sporting events and events for children will be held in the zones. Fans will also be able to use food service outlets, restrooms and special (paid-for) VIP lounges. In addition to internal security services, the fan zones will be protected by the police and city patrol forces.

Will that be enough to guarantee security? Previous experience shows that fans arriving for the European championships are largely good-natured and the tournament has not been blighted by any major acts of hooliganism. Even though the colorful processions of foreign fans leave behind a trail of garbage, trampled lawns and littered parks, they do not pose a major threat to either supporters’ own safety or that of host city residents. But Polish law enforcement services insist that they are prepared for all eventualities.
Agnieszka Dokowicz
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