By Clark Whitney and Kornel Pracki
Poland and Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski insists that Euro 2012 will have a long-term positive effect on his country.
The co-host nation has spent more than €20 billion on tournament preparations, ranging from the construction of new stadiums to airport and railway renovation. And Lewandowski feels the return on these investments will be reaped for years to come.
"The fans will see that Poland is a country to come back to," he told Goal.com. "In addition to the new stadiums and improved infrastructure, Poland has done a lot."
"I hope that this time, Poland will surprise fans and leave them with something they will remember for a long time" - Robert Lewandowski
With the advent of Euro 2012, Poland has welcomed business developments in its main cities, particularly in the form of several world class hotels. Lewandowski anticipates that these improvements will leave a pleasant impression in the minds of visitors.
He said: "Many fans from all over Europe will experience that there have been a lot more changes than just in organisation. The thousands of fans will see that Poland is a great country."
The co-host nation anticipates as many as one million visitors during the month of June, and revenue on the order of €200m. Experts have projected that tourism - and with it, gross domestic product - will steadily increase over the next eight years.
Lewandowski is particularly enamoured with the development of Poland's stadia, which he feels stand in an elite class.
"These stadiums are undoubtedly among the most beautiful in Europe," he said. "I do not think they are the most expensive, but we can be proud of them. This is one of the many examples of great changes that have happened in Poland in recent times."
Warsaw's National Stadium, Wroclaw's Municipal Stadium, and the PGE Arena in Gdansk were all constructed for Euro 2012, while Poznan's Municipal Stadium underwent €180m worth of renovations ahead of the tournament. In total, Poland spent over €1 billion to create the venues that will be used at Euro 2012.
The title of co-hosts leaves Poland with quite a responsibility on the pitch. Lewandowski believes that not only for the fans, but for the improvement of the Polish Ekstraklasa, his country must make a good impression at the tournament.
"I do not know if this Euro will have a major impact on the league," he admitted. However: "It is clear that if the Polish national team is playing well, it will also benefit the league."
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"I think that the teams have to prove themselves on the European stage. This year there had two Polish teams in the group stage of the Europa League - it was something special!" he added.
"I hope that Polish teams can qualify for the Champions League in the next few years and make a surprise, like APOEL from Cyprus did this year."
The last Polish team to compete in the Champions League was Lodz, in 1998.
Regarding the Polish national team, Lewandowski was much more bullish, and singled out Euro 2012 as the chance for his country to prove itself as a strong footballing nation.
"There are surprises at every European Championship," he explained.
"I hope that this time, Poland will surprise fans and leave them with something they will remember for a long time. We have a team that can play against anyone."
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