Poland hopes Euro 2012 will
attract about a million tourists and showcase its economic
success and political stability at a time when a debt crisis has
engulfed most of the European continent, Sports Minister Joanna
Mucha told Reuters.
Poland and Ukraine will co-host the European Championships in
June and July and Warsaw has pegged an ambitious infrastructure
building programme - the largest since the country overthrew
communism in 1989 - to the tournament.
"The championship is a fantastic opportunity to build up our
image, as abroad it is often still far from true. We expect
around a million fans and tourists to visit Poland during
the games," Mucha said in an interview authorised for release on
"I can only say - come over. You will be really surprised by
what we managed to accomplish over these 20-plus years."
Over the weekend Poland's National Stadium, built for the
tournament, opened in Warsaw and the host cities
of Gdansk and Wroclaw also have new sports venues, while the
stadium in Poznan underwent a thorough modernisation.
Poland has built 1,440 kilometres of roads since UEFA's 2007
decision embracing the joint bid with its eastern neighbour and
hopes for several hundred million zlotys in additional revenue
from visitors attending the matches.
"Direct revenue related to hosting Euro 2012 never covers
the costs calculated together with infrastructural investments,"
Mucha said. "But Euro 2012 is a gargantuan civilisational jump
for Poland, which to a large extent has already happened."
The heavy investments, co-founded by the European Union's
aid funds, have supported Poland's continuous economic growth
since the global crisis erupted in 2008, making it the only bloc
member to avoid recession so far.
Mucha, who also oversees Poland's security preparations,
said Warsaw still had to work out procedures aimed at
coordinating multiple units and test their effectiveness.
"Poland has never had such a complex logistical event up to
date. We have to be well prepared and it's not that much about
riots, which in fact are quite easy to control. I mostly fear
various events happening at the same time, including ones
completely unrelated to the games, like weather conditions, when
a clash of competences can occur," Mucha said.
"It could be a heatwave impacting health and behaviour of
the fans as well as some infrastructure," she added.
Mucha said the spat between Poland's centrist government of
Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a keen football fan and the country's
Football Association (PZPN) did not endanger hosting Euro 2012.
However, once the tournament was over, Warsaw would revive
attempts to dismiss PZPN chief Grzegorz Lato, accused by
colleagues of corruption, and alter the organisation's financing
"Negative emotions towards PZPN are so strong now that there
is a wide-ranging expectation of change, not only from the
society but also within the sports structures themselves," said
PZPN has been involved in a series of corruption scandals
but consecutive governments have failed to solve the problem.
"This is a delicate task of multilateral talks, a whole
political game targetting not only the dismissal of Grzegorz
Lato, but structural changes. We need changes regarding
financing, including the international one, media rights,
self-healing of the association," she added, referring to her
talks with UEFA and FIFA on the matter.
"So I will start dealing with sports itself only in the
autumn. My dream is to activate Poles to go in for sports, so
that Poles will widely practise sports, and infrastructure will
be widely available," she said.
Mucha dismissed criticism by some sports association members
that she was not experienced enough to run the ministry, saying
Euro 2012 preparations were a largely managerial task and
highlighting her passion for sports.
Recalling a childhood memory when her neighbourhood rattled
from an earthquake-like cheer after Poland beat Peru 5-1 at the
1982 World Cup, she said: "Similar emotions will be accompanying
us during these championships... but I myself prefer to do
sports rather than watch it."
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