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18/04/2008 Leave a Comment

The euphoria which gripped Ukraine and Poland on April 18, 2007 after winning the right to host Europe’s football championship, EURO 2012, has come to nothing.

A year after the triumphal hugs and kisses, the two countries’ preparations have progressed so poorly that Football Federation of Ukraine President Hryhoriy Surkis, and Football Federation of Poland President Michal Listkiewicz had to explain the situation in detail to the Union of European Football Association’s executive committee in last March.

The National Agency to Prepare and Host EURO 2012 was established to coordinate all state structures in Ukraine. Its chair, Yevhen Chervonenko, constantly criticizes the Cabinet of Ministers for ignoring his organization’s problems.

“I consider the level of financial support for the Agency by the government to be embarrassing,” he said of the EURO 2012 preparation funding. “The government scoffs not at me (I don’t care — I’m a self-sufficient person), it scoffs at Ukraine,” adding,”I have been spending my own personal money to maintain the agency. The cars, computers in the office – everything was bought with my own money. I have spent and spend without regret.”

But the poor Chervonenko can hardly come up with the tidy sum of nearly 16 billion euro necessary to host the championship. The Cabinet is ready to offer merely a fifth of the sum and state funds will be transferred to the city budget accounts starting next year.

Poland is ready to spend much more in preparations, about 27 billion euro, according to Fitch, the authoritative rating agency.

Surkis thinks the stall with EURO 2012 is a consequence of election campaigns and “a misunderstanding of the significance of this international project, which is able to fundamentally change Ukraine.”

“In spite of some political complications, we have no back­up plan,” UEFA Chair Michel Platini announced in April. “We trust Ukraine and Poland.”

Despite Platini’s diplomatic language, the two countries’ stalled EURO 2012 preparation evokes worry among the European experts who monitor EURO 2012 preparations.

There are no stadiums in Ukraine prepared to accept the European championship. Two of them, in Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk, are incomplete, and restoration of Kyiv’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium, the site of the final match, hasn’t begun. Demolition of the incomplete shopping center Troyitskiy is postponed for May.

Meanwhile, construction of a new stadium in Lviv is still on paper. “The Austrian development firm Albert Wimmer, which designed the stadiums in the Austrian cities of Salzburg, Klagenfurt and Innsbruck, where EURO 2008 will take place, signed a contract with the city and started developing the necessary documentation,” said Oleh Zasadniy, head of the EURO 2012 department of the Lviv City Council. Lviv also doesn’t have enough comfortable lodging to host the expected guests. None of Lviv’s 46 hotels has five stars but the mayor says that by 2012, the city will have five five­star hotels.

The situation in Donetsk is not much better, offering only one five­star hotel, the Donbass Palace. Mayor Oleksandr Lukianchenko assures that there will be three five­star hotels by 2012 and.

The Shakhtar football club’s stadium aims to become the first prepared for EURO 2012. The $250 million arena to seat 35,000 football fans will be finished by Turkish firm ENKA by the end of this year, according to Rinat Akhemtov, the owner of Shakhtar Donetsk.

Construction of the stadium in Dnipropetrovsk is planned for completion at the same time. German firm Hochtief has been building the stadium at a cost of 50 million euro.

Both football clubs are financing the construction.

“Only the so­called captains of industry are moving forward, whether for good or bad,” Chervonenko said. “Thanks to them, the championship will take place in Ukraine, because they don’t try to redirect authority and money streams in their direction. They are building.”

Most of Chervonenko’s skepticism is aimed at the government. In his view, local officials look at the 2012 situation “squinting, understanding they won’t be in their posts when it starts.”

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko demonstrates her willingness to personally control the process herself. During a meeting with representatives of 120 companies and 18 embassies, she tried convincing them of Ukraine’s investment attractiveness leading up to the championship. The government isn’t able to host the championship at national treasury’s expense only, Tymoshenko said.

The government is ready to give Hr 27 billion while the total cost of preparation is estimated at Hr 125 billion. Reconstructing 13 airports requires Hr 9.5 billion alone, and road construction will cost Hr 37.5 billion more.

In May 2007, President Viktor Yushchenko established a presidential coordinating board to manage Ukraine’s preparation for EURO 2012. At the same time, the Cabinet of Ministers passed a resolution to establish an organizational committee for the football euroforum.

“But the organizations will remain on paper until the act,” Surkis said.

Today, the Ukrainian government hasn’t begun financing the preparation for the tournament. Instead politicians quarrel about who will lead the EURO preparations. First Tymoshenko decided to lead the process and appointed Surkis and Chervonenko as her assistants.

Later the president, with his decree, appointed new members to the coordinating board, with himself as its chair.

Meanwhile Italy, which lost to the Polish­Ukrainian bid last April, has instantly reacted to the crisis in Ukraine. “That decision to give EURO 2012 to Ukraine and Poland was based on political reasons and didn’t consider the economic situation,” said Giancarlo Abete, president of Italian Football Federation. “Italy today has all the necessary facilities – stadiums, airports, and hotels.”

EURO 2012 is a challenge for the UEFA authorities as well, Surkis said. In spite of this, he is sure that their morale will not be harmed because of Ukraine. “UEFA officials understand that to build a house, one should lay the roads first, bring the building materials, and build the foundation,” Surkis said.

Optimistic experts suggest that Ukrainian authorities consider EURO 2012 preparations to be an advertising campaign for the country in general. “Ukraine is in a zone of increased attention for the next several years, and we should use that wisely,” said Oksana Matviychuk, manager of the branding department of Research & Branding Group, a Ukrainian company that deals with sociological, political and business studies.

EURO 2012 will help local businesses such as hotels, realty agencies, restaurants, taxi companies and advertising agencies. “Ideally, there should be a genuine parade of products with the championship logo: beer, milk, cheese, butter, not to mention souvenirs,” said Mykhaylo Veklyk, president of Lviv­Kyiv marketing research, media audit and branding company M.V. Group.

But it is not reasonable to start the advertising campaign today, which would be the same as giving the announcement of a New Year sale in May, said Serhiy Goronovych, director of Tifantis Van Winner Consulting Ukraine. That should be done no earlier than one and a half years before the championship in the media and at EURO 2012 sites, stadiums, hotels, airports, and railroad stations.

Despite the problems, Surkis remains an optimist, he is sure that by the end of the summer, Ukraine will have plenty to show Platini when he visits after the EURO 2008 final.

“Millions of people believe that in four years, a tremendous leap from dullness and misery to a European standard of living is possible,” Surkis said. “And we must make time.”

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