Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Roadblocks In Ukraine For Hosting Euro2012 Football

KIEV, Ukraine -- The boss of Ukraine's preparation programme to co-host the 2012 European football championship accused the government of dragging its feet on overhauling the country's shoddy roadways, the Interfax news agency reports.

Evhen Chervonenko, Director of the national agency for Euro2012.

Evhen Chervonenko, director of the national agency for Euro2012, at a meeting in the Black Sea resort city Livadia Tuesday accused officials in Ukraine's Ministry of Transport of ignoring foreign investment offers to upgrade the former Soviet republic's roads.

'We have an offer in hand from American investors, and if we get approval from the Ministry of Transport work could begin,' Chervonenko said.

'But they seem to have their own plans...and nothing is being done.'

Ukraine and Poland in April won rights from UEFA to host the prestige tournament.

Since then, Ukraine particularly has done practically nothing to get ready for the event -- a massive undertaking requiring the repair of thousands of kilometres of roads, the construction of dozens of hotels, and a top-to-bottom overhaul of the country's weak service industry.

UEFA officials have increasingly expressed worry at the slow pace of Ukrainian preparations, and even hinted if the Ukrainians fail to speed up work, they could have the tournament taken away from them.

Ukrainian government estimates place the cost of preparation for Euro2012 as high as $4 billion - roughly 20 percent of a year's annual budget for the East European nation. The lion's share of the money would go towards bringing Ukraine's currently weak road network to a European standard.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko this week put brakes on hopes the government would nonetheless fund the preparation effort, saying 'we must get funding from private industry...the government does not have it'.

'The biggest threat to getting ready is the loss of support from the ministry of transport,' Chervonenko said.

'If we don't solve the road problem we can't host the tournament.'

Ukraine's government has attempted to repair roads using foreign investment in the past, with varying results. An EU-financed stretch from Kiev to the Hungarian border was completed on time and under budget, and is comparable in quality to an average European trunk road.

A privately financed road involving Turkish and Italian developers, connecting Kiev to the Black Sea port city Odessa, has however been widely criticised for cost overruns, and shoddy workmanship.

UEFA general secretary David Taylor in late January criticised the speed of Poland and Ukraine's preparations, saying, 'There has been progress, but it needs to be accelerated.'

Source: DPA

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