With concerns over stadia, transport, ticketing and internal politics, the tournament's joint-host nations have a number of issues to contend before the tournament begins on June 8SPECIAL REPORT
By Kornel Pracki
With only a month to go until Euro 2012 kicks off in Warsaw, Poland and Ukraine are readying themselves to welcome European football's elite nations, but there is still much to be done off the pitch before the action begins on it.
Concerns over stadia remain the most pressing issue. The PGE Arena in Gdansk and Miejski in Wroclaw have already been deemed safe having staged friendly matches against Germany in September and Italy last November. However, in Poznan's Stadion Miejski, the first completed stadium for the tournament, the pitch still poses a major problem, with the turf having been replaced several times at the request of Uefa.
There are also unanswered questions concerning the safety of the National Stadium in Warsaw. In February, the Super Cup final between Wisla Krakow and Legia Warsaw had to be cancelled after the police refused to give the green light for the game as fire protection requirements had not been met.
Safety tests around the stadium have been carried out for two weeks now and special security arrangements, such as additional cameras in the arena, have been made as the authorities rush to prepare for this summer's showpiece.
In Ukraine, the stadiums in Lviv, Donetsk and Kiev were built specially for Euro 2012, while the arena in Kharkov was renovated.
The final stadium in Kiev cost far more money than had been estimated at the start of construction, with the approximated final total about £411.4m, equating to £5600 per seat.
The final stadium in Kiev cost far more money than had been estimated at the start of construction, with the approximated final total about €510 million [£411.4m], equating to approximately €7000 [£5600] per seat. In comparison, the stadium in Lviv required about €190m [£153.3m]. The Donbass Arena in Donetsk was built on time and has already celebrated several successful tests on the European stage, with local club Shakhtar having played there in the Champions League.
The transport links in the host nations are also proving a cause for concern ahead of the tournament. In Poland, only a few sections of motorway have been completed to an acceptable standard and visiting fans from across Europe will be reliant on air travel and the railways.
In the host cities, the airports have been renovated and brought to a high standard consistent with the rest of Europe. The railways, whose ticket prices are much cheaper compared to those in Germany or France (an average of around €15-20 [£12-16]), will disappoint the fans entering the country. The trains are often overloaded and uncomfortable and fans will have to deal with long journey times.
The greatest problem will likely be the trip from Poland to Ukraine. At border crossings, drivers will have to deal with long waits, which on average are likely to be between five and seven hours, though eight additional border crossings are currently being set up by the authorities as to deal with the increase in numbers expected during the tournament.
In regards to ticketing, Uefa announced that games in Poland have long been sold out. In Ukraine, however, there is still the opportunity to secure some tickets for group games via a number of football associations and their various internet portals.
This year, the ticket sales are subject to more stringent controls – they were sold after April 23 and will only be admitted to people at the stadiums whose names are actually on the tickets. Uefa also offers an official exchange market, giving fans the chance to acquire tickets at face value.
Since October of last year, any cheap accommodation has vanished. Currently, the hotel owners are trying to set astronomical prices in order to earn as much money as possible during the tournament. One night in a hotel in a Polish host city during Euro 2012 will cost about €300-€600 [£240-485].
The demand seems to be very low at present and Uefa president Michel Platini, who has criticised the high prices set by the hotels, has now assured that the end of May will see the costs reduced because the hotel owners will recognise that there are too many vacancies.
|THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Euro 2012 in numbers
|8||The number of venues in the tournament, four in Poland and four in Ukraine.|
|18||Days spent on hunger strike by incarcerated former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.|
|31||Days until the opening match between Poland and Greece in Warsaw on June 8.|
|240||Pounds for the starting price for a hotel room in a Polish host city during the tournament.|
|411||Million pounds it has cost to build the Olimpiysky National Sports Complex in Kiev, which will host the final on July 1.|
As alternative options there are some Euro Fan Parks, where the fans can sleep for one night from around €20-€70 [£16-56]. In addition, supporters could spend their nights in hostels, as those establishments are not expected to drive their prices up.
Former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski recently criticised the passive attitude of the country's politicians towards the championships. He argues that, in advance of the tournament, too little respect has been shown for the competition and that, as a result, it is not being given the necessary attention in Poland.
In most Polish cities, there is still next to no atmosphere being generated ahead of the Euros. Uefa has announced its intention to raise the mood in both nations with a variety of different projects, as well as opening the Fan Zones earlier than previously planned.
"All of the people in both countries should feel like hosts and respect all the fans from all over Europe. I guarantee that there will be an unforgettable atmosphere at this tournament," vowed Marcin Herra, president of the PL.2012 company.
The recent terrorist attacks in Dnipropetrovsk have also understandably brought concerns ahead of the tournament in a month's time, as well as the imprisonment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko causing growing unrest in Ukraine.
The heated atmosphere between government and opposition, culminating in Tymoshenko recently going on hunger strike for 10 days, has led to talk of tournament boycotts, with the competition undoubtedly becoming a political issue. However, Michel Platini has rubbished talk of a tournament withdrawal.