After Delhi, Stand By For A Poland-Ukraine Fiasco

LONDON, England -- The host of a major international sports event is behind schedule with its preparations and doubts have been expressed as to whether the tournament will be able to go ahead as planned.

No, I'm not referring to Delhi, desperately trying to get things ready for next month's Commonwealth Games, but to Ukraine, co-host of the 2012 European football championships.

Earlier this year, UEFA President Michel Platini, exasperated with the slow pace of Ukraine's preparations, and in particular the renovation of Kiev's Olympic Stadium - the planned venue for the final - said that Germany or Hungary might replace the eastern European country as co-hosts for the tournament.

Although he's since changed his tune, and the official UEFA line is more upbeat on everything being ready in time, don't rule out us facing another 'Delhi scenario' in two years' time.

Ukraine is a desperately poor country which has been hard hit by the global financial crisis. Corruption is widespread: the former Soviet Republic was rated 146th out of 180 in the 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index, the joint-lowest rated country in Europe, along with Russia.

In late 2008, the head of Ukraine's organising committee conceded that due to financial problems the country was having difficulties constructing the hotels needed to cater for the huge influx of supporters.

With Ukraine teetering on the edge of bankruptcy - domestic gas prices are being raised by 50 per cent as a condition of the country's latest IMF loan - many are questioning the wisdom of spending so much on hosting a football tournament, when the government claims it has precious little money for anything else.

Ukraine's co-host, Poland, has its problems too. The Polish government has admitted that its plan to build hundreds of miles of new roads in time for Euro 2012 will not be realised.

Then there's its fragmented, privatised railway system - modelled on Britain's - which is likely to come up short when it comes to transporting large numbers of football fans around the country.

Given the difficulties in an era of global recession, is it not time we considered sharing these sports tournaments among a smaller group of nations, whose facilities and infrastructure are already up to scratch?

The Olympics are the easiest tournament to place. Instead of moving to a different venue every four years, they could be held permanently in Greece. Not only would it mean the Olympics returning to their birthplace, it would end the unseemly lobbying that goes on by wannabe hosts to win the favour of the IOC.

The World Cup could be hosted on a rota basis by Germany, Brazil, South Africa, and one other European nation deemed to have enough top quality stadiums and an adequate infrastructure.

It could be the Netherlands or France - but let's leave England out of it until we re-nationalise our railways and have the efficient transport system we had back in 1966, when the World Cup was such a success.

The list of countries on the rota could be added to every 25 or 30 years to allow economically emerging countries the chance to host the tournament in the future - but on a realistic timescale which would enable adequate forward planning.

The European football championships would be held in countries which, again, already have the proper facilities and reliable public transport.

The 2008 Euros, co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland, were a huge organisational success, not least because both countries have fantastic public transport and were able to transport crowds effortlessly from A to B at all hours of the day.

As for the Commonwealth Games, does it really matter who hosts them? The Games have declined enormously in prestige in recent years, to become the Carling Cup of world sport. India must be questioning why on earth they put in a bid to host them in the first place.

After the fiasco of Delhi, it's time to put the increasingly boring 'Will the Games be completed in time?' story-line to bed.

What should matter in all major tournaments is the quality of the competition - not which country is hosting them. It's the sport that should be the focus - not the location.

Source: The First Post