Michel Platini appears much more confident about the ongoing preparations for the Euro 2012 tournament made by host countries Poland and Ukraine. Platini led a European Football Association (UEFA) delegation that visited Warsaw on April 15th for an update on Poland’s preparations. He then moved on to inspect efforts being made in Ukraine.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was amongst those who had a formal meeting with the UEFA chairman. Tusk assured Platini that the Poles are now “on schedule.” Platini’s public reply also suggested that the state of preparations in Poland has improved drastically since UEFA expressed their sincere concerns in the summer of 2008.
In December of last year, Platini again paid a visit to both countries, at which time he was clearly more impressed by the progress made in Poland than in Ukraine. With that remark he fuelled rumours that Poland might just organize the whole tournament themselves. But alternative nations to host the tournament such as Scotland, Spain, Italy or Germany were dismissed by the French UEFA leader, who stated that this would be a possibility “only if I still see bulldozers working in June 2012 in Warsaw.” UEFA General Secretary David Taylor said, however, that “there’s still a lot of stadium construction to be done” when he stood next to the muddy pit that is going to become the new stadium in Warsaw.
But during the last visit in April Platini actually sounded genuinely excited: “You’re going to have some beautiful stadiums here in Poland. Fabulous stadiums! They are going to be fantastic for the future of Polish football,” he announced. “I would like to thank both governments, and the Polish and Ukrainian national associations, for their collaboration and for the fruitful meetings we have held over the last two days.” That last remark would seem insignificant, but it was the first time that Platini did not criticise, or review the organising countries in a negative way. The only footnote came from David Taylor: “Let’s not be complacent in Poland – there is still a lot to be done.”
To give a demonstration of the progress, the Polish side of the organisation have launched Masterplan.2012.org.pl – a flip chart harmonogram online in which every point of improvement is mentioned by city and the current state of the scheduled improvements. In contrast to last year a lot of orange or red dots (current state slightly or far behind schedule) turned green (on schedule) or even white with a green circle around it (ahead of schedule).
Most of the problems are concentrated on the building or improving of roads and connections between or in and around certain cities. Particularly, the city of Chorzów is far behind schedule. The Sląski Stadium is the least of the current problems, but the modernisation of the tram tracks, airport and roads (especially the one to Zabrze) are way behind. Given the fact that Kraków can only be criticised for not having started the building of certain underground parking lots, the city has a perfect report sheet and it seems more and more likely that Kraków will be promoted from reserve city to an actual match venue.
The best student in the Polish class however is Wrocław. Everything is on schedule and locals are as much as certain that the city will host a certain amount of games during the Euro 2012 tournament. With Warsaw being guaranteed of having the opening game and a semi-final of the tournament, it will be Poznań and Gdańsk battling it out for the last free spot. The cities are almost equal when it comes to their developments towards being fit to host such an event. Poznań has a better reputation and has better accessibility, but Gdansk’s infrastructure is good and with the coastline as an additional attraction for visitors and the building of the highway between Warsaw and Gdynia on schedule, both cities are virtually tied. However, a possibility exists that Poland will have more than the normal amount of four cities when the number of cities would be equally divided. Much depends on the situation in Poland’s neighbouring country – the tournament’s co-host.
A warehouse that blocked the emergency exits of the Olympic Stadium in Kiev (the stadium where the final is scheduled to be held) is finally undergoing destruction, much to the delight of spectator Michel Platini. But much political debate on the local and national level occurred prior to that and this only concerned an insignificant building. Ukraine is still behind schedule. Of course, Ukraine is physically a larger country than Poland, but the country also lacks the political and economical efficiency to quickly make up the deficit. It has already reached such an extent that during the warehouse demolition, Platini hinted towards a balance of hosting cities in favour of Poland instead of an equally divided amount. The Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk is the only city out of all the candidate cities that has its stadium ready for Euro 2012. But it is clear that Poland is far ahead of Ukraine when it comes to the infrastructural improvements needed to handle the flood of people that will visit the countries during the summer of 2012.
Congratulations to Poland
In spite of the progress made and David Taylor’s remark that “we’ve been given some more confidence from this visit,” the economic turmoil, the political instability of Ukraine’s government and also the concerns about the numerous incidents linked to racism and discrimination in both countries are still points of attention. On May 13th UEFA will announce the eight cities that will host the matches of the Euro 2012 tournament. The Association has also given itself until September of this year to recall the Poland/Ukraine appointment. But especially Poland has shown great physical improvement in their efforts to speed up the preparations necessary to host the Euro 2012 tournament. Or as Michel Platini stated after his visit: “I don’t see any big, big problems as far as the organisation is concerned,” he said. “Things are advancing well, and I want to congratulate the minister [of sport] and the football federation.”