February 2012: Date for your diary -- February 29, 2012:

On February 29, the final countdown to the 2012 European Football Championship will begin. From that Wednesday it will be exactly 100 days until the kick-off on June 8 of the biggest football event of the year. Fourteen-and-half weeks before the European Championship opener, when the Polish national team will meet Greece, the last of the eight championship stadiums will be ceremonially opened. Poland has invited the national team of Portugal for the first match at the brand new National Stadium in Warsaw. Originally the opening was scheduled for last September, but the encounter with Germany (2-2) was switched to Gdansk to celebrate the first match at the Baltic Sea Stadium. Now it’s the honour of Germany’s European Championship group opponents Portugal – and of course Poland – to celebrate the premiere at National Stadium. It should be more than just a test for the European Championship. The arena is the new pride of Polish sport.

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The new National Stadium in Warsaw will be inaugurated with the match Poland versus Portugal on February 29. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)

  


The evening will be a major step towards EURO 2012, run by the European Football Association, UEFA, to be concluded on July 1 with the final in Kiev. But not all problems have been solved in the lead up to the opening in Warsaw. The Polish Super Cup final between Legia Warsaw and Wisla Krakow was not allowed to take place in the new, grand arena. The police repeatedly expressed security concerns. Works on the stadium infrastructure will continue until the last minute.

Preparations underway at all levels

On May 9, one month prior to the start of EURO 2012, all eight stadiums in Kiev, Donezk, Charkiv, Lviv, Warsaw, Gdansk, Poznan and Wroclaw will be handed over to UEFA. Preparations are fully underway at all levels. Representatives of the 16 teams will meet in Warsaw for a workshop on March 8-9. UEFA’s sponsors, among them Continental AG, will hold a meeting in Kiev on April 2-4. At the same time the extensive training phase for thousands of European Championship volunteers will begin. Without them such a major event as a European Championship could not be organised. Another group of people, who are of vital importance for EURO 2012, will meet in Warsaw on April 30-May 3: the referees.

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“Warsaw welcomes you”. All eight cities will be smartened up for the European Championship tournament. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


When the separate championship and cup titles have been decided in all countries, and the UEFA finals in the Champions League and the Europa League have been played, discussions among football fans throughout the entire continent will focus on their national teams from May 30 at the latest. That’s the deadline set by UEFA for the 16 European Championship teams to nominate their 23-player squads for the tournament. The first of the participants will arrive in the two European Championship host countries at the beginning of June.

Proceedings will hot up from June 5, when the large media centres and the International Broadcasting Centre (IBC) will commence operations. Shortly before the tournament start in Warsaw on June 7, the fan miles will open in the European Championship cities. In the Polish capital this area is designed for 100,000 people.

Finishing touches are being made everywhere. Airports, roads, including important motorways, and hotels are being completed, while modernisation or new constructions are reaching conclusion. Both countries have invested several billion Euros to bring the venues up to date. The European Championship cities have smartened themselves up. Logos, emblems, stickers, banners – the distinctive, attractive and especially-for-EURO created design for UEFA will dominate each city’s appearance. Hundred of thousands of fans are expected from all over Europe.

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The hotel Dwor Oliwski in Gdansk, where the German national team will be accommodated. Fans will pay a lot for a room in the Ukraine, but won’t get such a good standard. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)


Problems still exist, however. Accommodation has become a major headache, particularly in the Ukraine. At the beginning of February a report caught the attention when, due to price increases by hotel proprietors of up to 400 per cent, Boris Kolesnikov, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister President, advised visitors not to stay overnight in his country. The extremely high prices, which were inevitable due to the marked lack of guest rooms, were the background for this amazing warning. “If the hotels continue to increase prices, I advise the tourists to get into a plane, watch the matches and to fly home again instead of staying here overnight”, said the Deputy Prime Minister. Extensions at airports are almost finished, Kolesnikov added. A high volume of traffic could be dealt with.

The politician criticised the hotel industry for asking exorbitant prices despite being granted tax reductions for the European Championship. The criticism, which could deter many guests, triggered a confident reaction from tourism associations. Forty nine hotels were completed by the beginning of this year so there would be a sufficient capacity for football fans in all of Ukraine’s European Championship cities. The situation in Poland is better, according to the assessment by UEFA. And the participants have also made their positions clear -- 13 of the 16 teams will be based in Poland during EURO 2012.