Coming Soon - a profile of the stadiums to be used....
From The Times - April 19, 2007 Poland and Ukraine full of eastern promise, provided they can get the builders inNick Szczepanik finds out how the former bloc countries will cope with the descent of galácticos and pampered Premiership stars
The thousands of Polish builders working in this country may find that they have more pressing business back home after the announcement yesterday that Poland and Ukraine will host the 2012 European Championship finals.
The building of new stadiums and the refurbishment of old ones in the countries will be a considerable boost to the local economies of the host cities and will require the mobilisation of missing manpower. Both nations have been among the more ambitious of those who gained independence from communism — Poland in 1989 and Ukraine in 1991 — and the authorities will be confident in their ability to marshal the resources required to improve infrastructure and upgrade stadiums.
But in countries where cynicism became a way of life for many years, there will be intense local scepticism about funding and completion dates, despite an influx of money from the EU in Poland at least.
For example, a new 70,000-capacity national stadium, scheduled for completion in June 2009, is to be built in Warsaw and will stage the opening match, group games and one semi-final. The existing international venue in the Polish capital, the Legia Stadium, holds about 15,000. On the other hand, construction is under way on the new Shakhtar Stadium in Donetsk that, when completed, will be a Uefa five-star venue and promises to be the most modern stadium in the world. Related LinksThe fan experience Italy pays for rotten state of its football Platini gets his way as power shifts
Shakhtar Donetsk are backed by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s leading oligarch, whose fortune is estimated at more than $11 billion (about £5.48 billion).
“We have a lot of work in front of us, almost five years of it,” Lech Kaczynski, the President of Poland, said. “We have to prepare a serious infrastructure system. You can’t be late with this. There will be new stadiums, the infrastructure tied to that, the infrastructure tied to tourism, for large crowds.”
But if those obstacles can be overcome, politics, both national and sporting, are likely to remain unpredictable. Fifa threatened Poland with a worldwide ban this year after Government interference in the workings of the Polish FA and 80 people have been imprisoned as a result of an investigation into corruption in the sport.
Viktor Yushchenko, the President of Ukraine, recently dissolved the country’s parliament and although Akhmetov is a key ally of Yushchenko and a member of Ukraine’s political establishment, he was once suspected of involvement in organised crime and faced questioning by the police.
Nevertheless, Uefa felt confident enough in a bid that included guarantees from local, regional and national governments about the organisation of the event and agreements from host cities about hotels and stadiums.
“It’s very good for Poland,” Witold Banasik, a power station foreman in Lodz, Poland’s second city, said. “I’m happy, even though Lodz missed out. I don’t think there will be problems building the stadiums. Most were already planned before the announcement. Maybe individuals are not rich, but there is money in the country, or people know where to find it. The problem could be materials and people. All the talented young people in my street, including my daughter, have gone abroad.”
The projected Polish venues are Gdansk, Poznan, Warsaw and Wroclaw, with Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Kiev and Lviv the host cities in Ukraine. Neither country has previously hosted a leading finals tournament, although both have strong footballing traditions.
Poland finished third in the World Cup in 1974 and 1982, while Ukraine reached the World Cup quarter-finals last year and Dynamo Kiev, Ukraine’s leading club, are a traditional powerhouse in European football. Ukraine are at No 11 in the Fifa world rankings, and Poland, 24.
Leo Beenhakker, the former Holland and Real Madrid coach who manages Poland, welcomed the decision but also called for a rapid move forward in advance of the tournament. “It means a lot for Polish football and I am very happy,” he said. “The Government and federation have to start working to create better infrastructure, better stadiums and training facilities. That is the most important task for Polish football at the moment.”
When communism held sway, sport was well funded, but when democracy took over, football was forced down the pecking order and the success of clubs depended on the wealth of owners. Shakhtar were among the lucky ones, but some of the rest of the area’s football infrastructure can best be described as “ramshackle”.
The decision to stage a leading finals series in Eastern Europe is as much a mark of Michel Platini’s desire to take more high-level football away from its traditional power bases as a vote of confidence in the sport in Poland and Ukraine, but the people are not complaining.
An estimated 300,000 work in the UK and, apart from those who may return home looking for construction work, it might be a good idea not to look for a plumber, nanny or waitress during the tournament. “For sure, I will be in Poland,” Tomasz, an electrician visiting Magdusia’s Polish food shop in Brighton, East Sussex, yesterday, said. “It will be a big party. With plenty of vodka.”