Euro 2012 – death or glory?

As most people know, Poland and Ukraine were selected to host the European Championship football tournament in 2012. Ever since the announcement, the question on everyone’s lips has been “Will they be ready for it?”. As I live in Warsaw, I’ll worry more about the Polish side of things although one general point is that however far behind Poland might be, in Ukraine it is slightly worse.

For me this is very exciting as I both enjoy football and love Poland so the idea of improving the place and then getting to watch some good football at the end of it is just great. I am however very concerned that the lack of organisational ability here when the government or large institution get involved will possibly lead to losing the championships. I’m not the only one who feels that way. Scotland has already been poaching in the hope that Poland does fall on its face and Michel Platin, head of UEFA, is now issuing monthly warnings to Poland & Ukraine to get it together or lose the tournament.

“We’ve had to wake them up a little and tell them it’s time to get going,” Platini told French radio France Info on Thursday. “The 2012 Euro will still be held (there), but we’ve told them in the nicest possible way to speed things up a bit.”. Platini first warned the co-hosts back in January, highlighting the importance of the next six months. “I have the distinct feeling that the next four to six months will be crucial in order to avoid any critical slippage in infrastructure projects and to protect the credibility of the Euro project,” he said.

So, 2008, the next six months perhaps, are the critical time to convince everyone that this can happen in Poland & Ukraine.

It should be noted that, in financial terms, this is not about football stadiums. In fact the whole exercise, from the point of view of the governments involved is more a case of getting investment for infrastructure projects than it is about football. Stadiums may be the most essential physical elements but they account for less than 10% of the total spending going into getting ready for the tournament. Around 17% of the estimated total investment of €38 billion for both countries (€23 billion for Poland) is in stadiums and hotels. A massive 78% is going on roads and rail and a further 5% on airports. So getting here and getting around when you are here is sucking up the lion’s share of the cash.

To give you an idea of the scale of the infrastructure projects involved in Poland:

  • €12 billion on road projects – sections of the A2 and A4 motorways, the entire A1 motorway and the S5 highway connecting Wrocław via Poznan to Gdansk need to be built.
  • Warsaw needs to build the second metro line. First one is not even finished yet, second one is not started.
  • Modernisation of six airports in participating cities as well as two new airports in Modlin and Gdynia.
  • Modernisation of all railway tracks between the cities as well as new rolling stock and station improvements.

On the stadium front, we need new stadiums in Warsaw, Gdansk and Wrocław as well as extensions to a further six in Krakow (2), Katowice, Lublin, Warsaw (Legia) and Gdansk. Training facilities are also needed around the country. As far as accommodation is concerned, every city is short of hotel rooms except possibly Warsaw.

These are major projects. The biggest concerns are the eastern section of the A4, the southern section of the A1 between Strykow and Pyrzowiec and absolutely everything that needs to be done by PKP, the national rail company, who have never done this before and are almost certain to fail. Of least concern are things that are dependent on private investment, hotels for example, or things in the hands of the cities themselves, as opposed to national government, such as the stadia and training grounds.

The most exciting project for me is the new national stadium in Warsaw because it is here I will be watching England versus Poland in the semi-final, or with a bit of luck, the final! These architectural concepts and maps will give you a feel for it. It includes a 60,000 seater stadium, rail station, hotel, park, Olympic size swimming pool and assorted trade halls or other facilities.

On this map, you can see (click to enlarge) the location of the stadium within the city and compared to my home, office and the old town area:

You can see how close it is to the downtown area in this shot, the red squiggle is the Palace of Culture, main rail station area:

The new stadium will be built on the plot currently covered by the “10th Anniversary Stadium”, an extremely busy and rather sleazy area known as the “Russian Bazaar”. Certainly the best place to pick up hand grenades and Kalshnikovs in central Warsaw but also good for dodgy software or DVDs.

Here is a closer look at the area as it stands today, the yellow squiggle relates to the red squiggle above and red squiggle is the outline of the new stadium plot:

Finally a very close shot of the Russian bazaar from above:

This project is exciting not only because I’ll be able to watch England vs Poland, but also because it should mean that music gigs can be held in Warsaw that are currently held elsewhere in the country, like Spodek in Katowice. It should also encourage more sporting events to be held here, trade fairs & exhibitions. It will tidy up the eyesore that is the Russian Bazaar and might act as a springboard for development of the old port area on that side of the river.

There are so many positive things that can come out of Euro 2012, I just hope the government doesn’t screw it up!

6 thoughts on “Euro 2012 – death or glory?

  1. Look at Terminal 2 – is there more to say about ‘will Poland be ready for Euro2012’. They will screw it up and it will be a nightmare.

  2. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Poland, Ukraine: Euro 2012

  3. Pingback: The state of Polish football « 20 east

  4. Pingback: Euro 2012 update « 20 east

  5. Pingback: Happy 2nd anniversary to “20 east” « 20 east

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