Ukraine And Poland Unprepared For Hosting Soccer Cup

BERLIN, Germany -- Five years from now, Poland and the Ukraine will host the European Soccer Championships. Both are struggling to find billions of euros needed to build basic infrastructure such as roads, stadiums and hotels.

A lot of work needs to be done before game time. It will be interesting to see where Ukraine plans to find 20 billion euros.

Poland needs to do construction work on approximately 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) of roadway. But they're 10 billion euros ($13.6 billion) short with no solution in sight, according to Wojciech Malusi, who heads an association of Polish road construction companies.

Warsaw's city hall doesn't know where to get money needed for projects like lengthening the metro lines. A regional train route needs to be built along with a national sports center with ultra-modern arena needs to go up.

Finding enough money is not the only one problem. Vendors at a fairground that is supposed to be razed to make way for the national stadium, are holding out for more compensation.

"They shouldn't think that we're going to willingly leave this place. If necessary, we'll take to the streets, like the miners did. Our work place here is more important than soccer and a show for Europe," one man said.

European Union will help out

At least Poland, unlike the Ukraine, can count on getting some help from the European Union. Brussels has promised 18 billion euros in the next years for infrastructure plus an additional 11 billion for road construction.

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski has taken a confrontational tone with the EU. Most recently, Poland angered its EU counterparts by nearly derailing a treaty deal over disagreements about voting rights.

"The government should simply refrain from this tone that we're the tiger of Europe. We're one of the poorest countries in the European Union," Malusi said.

While the money from the EU is welcome, Poland doesn't have the necessary 15 percent co-financing the EU help requires, Malusi said.

Kaczynski urged people to be patient and not to be influenced by the "hysteria created by the media." There's no problem yet, Kaczynski said. Preparation work has started and a minister will soon be appointed to oversee the projects.

"We're only human and can't do everything at once," he said. "But we certainly will have a handle on it."

The Polish public seems less optimistic. Only half of people in a recent survey thought the country was preparing well for the 2012 games.

Ukraine distracted by political problems

The Ukranian government plans to invest more than 20 billion euros to get the country ready for the European soccer championships.

The Ukraine needs to make massive improvements to its infrastructure. Streets and rail lines need to be built. Airports and hotels are not up to international standards. And it all has to be done in five years.

A political standoff has kept the government distracted. But Ivan Fedorenko of Ukraine's football association said all political parties signed on to a letter guaranteeing their support of the event and understand what it means to Ukraine.

"In only five years we must do the impossible," Fedorenko said. "Then we can invite the representatives from the European Union to the final game in Kiev and say to them: look here, we're a European country and we're ready to become part of the European community."

It's an ambitious goal. The country is still far behind European standards and won't get any money from the European Union to help get up to speed. Of the 20 billion euros, 90 percent will come from private capital, primarily from abroad. For foreign investors, the soccer championship is a signal that Ukraine is a good place to do business, said Ricardo Giucci, of the German advisory group for the government in Kiev.

But the Ukraine still has an image problem. Until now, many politicians didn't worry about what the rest of the world thought. That's changing, Giucci said.

More hotel beds a priority

Giucci expects a lot of foreign investors to be interested in the hotel sector. The country lacks modern hotels. Without modern accomodations, the Ukraine will face a lot of criticism come tournament time, Giucci said.

Ostap Protsyk, who is responsible for international affairs in the Ukranian host city of Lemberg, said the city continues to attract more European tourists. There are currently 6,000 beds available in town. To accommodate rising interests, they could use three or four times as many, Lemberg said.

"This is not only for the European Championships, but also for normal requirements for a city with a large tourist potential," he said.

Source: Deutsche Welle


Orest Dorosh said…
Why is the city of Lviv being referred to as Lemberg?
I personally find this insulting and it should be corrected before being posted on your blog. I also find THE Ukraine reference being used too often plus the mispelling of Ukrainian. You want to promote Ukraine and can't get the fundamentals right. Geez!
Blair Sheridan said…
Lemberg is being used here, as the source is Deutsche Welle.

"The" Ukraine - again, 'taint Nicholas' fault. He's merely posted wire stories. Give him a break.