Eight EURO 2012 venues in Poland and Ukraine

On 18 April 2007 the UEFA President Michel Platini announced in Cardiff the countries that had been chosen to stage the 2012 European Championships – Poland and Ukraine. The finals will therefore be played Eastern Europe for the first time ever. It will be the third time after 2000 (Netherlands and Belgium) and 2008 (Switzerland and Austria) that the tournament will be co-hosted

Poland has a population of almost 40 million – and the majority love football. A member of the EU since 2004, the country lies at the heart of Europe. The four venues in Poland are:

Gdansk – the port and former Hanseatic League city has long become an attractive tourist destination. About 1.5 million people visit the city on the Baltic coast annually. A must for every visitor: Gdansk’s landmarks – the medieval port crane (Zuraw) and St Mary’s Church. The Catholic church is the world’s largest brick church. In Gdansk at the start of the 1980s, Lech Walesa, the union leader, organised Solidarnosc which marked the start of the opposition to the Communist rule. Arena Gdansk was only completed in July 2011. Its exterior consists of 18,000 polycarbonate sheets that are supposed to resemble amber which was mined on the Baltic coast.

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Poznan – Poland’s fifth biggest city is a transport hub halfway on the road between Berlin and Warsaw. Poznan has been an important trading centre ever since the Middle Ages and today is the country’s second most prosperous city after Warsaw. About 120,000 students generate a young and vibrant atmosphere with a lively nightlife. Most of the sights are to be found in the historical Old Town city starting at the Old Market Square dating back to 1253. The pride of the city is Lech Posen. Having won the league championship six times and the cup on five occasions, the club is one of the most successful in Poland. Lech plays its games in the completely redeveloped European Championship arena which has a capacity of 40,000.

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Warsaw – with a population of 1.7 million, Warsaw is Poland’s capital and one of the most important cultural, trade and economic centres in Eastern Europe. Highly attractive is the contrast between past and present: skyscrapers and shopping malls lie next to the historical Old Town which is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. The principle attraction for guests from all over the world is the Royal Castle. Like virtually the majority of the city, it was destroyed in the Second World War and later rebuilt. Completely new is the national stadium designed to hold 50,000 spectators. It was the last EURO 2012 arena to be completed. It will stage the opening game between Poland and Greece on 8 June.

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Wroclaw – the European Capital of Culture 2016 is one of Poland’s oldest cities and is also regarded as one of the country’s most beautiful. Its nickname of the “Polish Venice” is down to its location spread over 12 islands that are linked by 112 bridges. The 140,000 students in 11 universities and colleges make Wroclaw a lively cultural city. The Polish financial world and the high-tech sector have also discovered Wroclaw. The most famous tourist attraction is the Racławice Panorama painting which is housed in a 114-metre circular building. Almost 200 years were needed to build the gigantic town hall. 40,000 spectators will watch the three EURO 2012 group games in the new municipal stadium.

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In terms of size, the Ukraine is the second biggest country in Europe. It is hoped the European Championship will help the nation with a population of 46 million gain EU membership. The four venues in Ukraine are:

Donetsk - coal mining and the steel industry dominate the scene at the most easterly European Championship venue. Today there are still 17 coal mines and five steel works with, in part, catastrophic working conditions. Donetsk has however been recognised as the world’s cleanest industrial city by the UNESCO due to its numerous green spaces. The city was only founded in 1869 – by a Welshman. Numerous statues still remind one of old Soviet heroes but these days, Schakhtar’s footballers are the city’s idols. In 2009, club owner Rinat Achmetow, the richest person in Ukraine, commissioned an ultra-modern 50,000-seater European Championship arena costing 320 million Euro.

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Kharkiv – with a population of 1.5 million, Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second biggest city. The proximity to Russia cannot be missed. The Russian language dominates everyday life and the monumental statue of Lenin still stands on the gigantic Freedom Square, the ninth biggest square in the world. It will be the site of a EURO 2012 fan fest. Forty-two universities and colleges have turned the city, which was founded in 1654 by the Russian Tsar Alexei I, into one of the country’s centres of learning. The often renovated Metalist Stadium has a capacity of 35,000 and will be the venue of one of the EURO 2012’s top games when Germany takes on the Netherlands in 13 June.

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Kiev – the capital of Ukraine is the goal of everybody’s dreams at the EURO 2012 as it’s where the final will be played on 1 July. With its 2.8 million residents, Kiev is by far the county’s biggest city and the most important economic, political and cultural centre. Broad boulevards like the famous Khreshchatyk Boulevard and the large parks belong to the cityscape as do historical churches and monumental Soviet buildings. In 2004, mass protests in Kiev’s city centre led to the Orange Revolution. Redevelopment work on the old Olympic Stadium, which was originally built in 1980, took three years. The 60,000-seater stadium is the biggest of the eight EURO 2012 arenas.

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Lviv – the “Florence of the East” lies just 70 kilometres from the Polish border. Socialist buildings found no place in the city with a population of 735,000 so that the old European charm has remained right up until the present day. The small Old Town which suffered little bomb damage during the Second World War is a UNESCO World heritage Site. Lviv’s tram system, which has been running through the city on especially narrow rails since 1880, has even had a song dedicated to it. A transparent roof protects the 30,000 spectators in the European Championship’s smallest stadium. The German team will play two group matches there when they take on Portugal (9 June) and Denmark (17 June).

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