November 29th, 2011
09:20 PM ET

Poland and Ukraine primed for Euro 2012 kick-off

Euro 2012 is a huge moment in the footballing histories of both Poland and Ukraine.
Euro 2012 is a huge moment in the footballing histories of both Poland and Ukraine.

Editor's note - Pedro Pinto will be interviewing UEFA president Michel Platini on Friday and we want your questions. Whether you want to quiz him on his expectations for Euro 2012 or the quality of this year's Champions League, leave your questions below and we'll put the best to him.

When UEFA picked Poland and Ukraine to co-host Euro 2012, there were those who questioned the decision. After all, Eastern Europe had never organized a tournament of such magnitude and there were concerns the duo would struggle to deliver the necessary infrastructure to make the event a success.

To be fair, those concerns were warranted, especially in the Ukraine. The government that was in charge until 2010 did little to justify the confidence placed in them by Michel Platini, the president of European football's governing body. There were severe delays in the construction of stadiums, roads, airports and hotels. The organizing committee changed personnel various times and it got to a point where no-one knew who was in charge any more.

The situation got so bad that UEFA threatened to take the tournament away from Ukraine and give all of the matches to Poland. There were even rumours that Germany could be called in to help out.

But over the last 18 months, the rhetoric has been quite different. There were several stories on how big improvements to the work rate had been made, and the inauguration of several stadiums in both host nations gave fans around the world belief this European Championships would be a great one.

Still, it was with some scepticism that I travelled to Poland and Ukraine this week for CNN's Special Coverage of the build-up to Euro 2012. I wondered how these nations were preparing and whether the necessary infrastructure was in place or on pace for the start of the event?

Well, having spent the last week travelling across both countries I can tell you that if you are a football supporter, you needn't worry. The stadiums look great and although some of the roads and railways may not be completed by the start of the tournament, enough progress will have been made to make the fan experience a good one.

Let me tell you what my main impressions have been.

Warsaw and Kiev are both fantastic cities where people love football and follow their local teams passionately. Everyone I have spoken to is thrilled the European Championships is coming to town and can't wait to support their teams, even though they are aware both Poland and Ukraine have only an outside chance of lifting the trophy on July 1. Ukrainian football legend Andriy Shevchenko told me playing a Euro on home soil was a dream come true and he would love to make the final in his last competitive tournament with his national team.

The most impressive stadium is the one in Donetsk where Shakhtar play their home games. The Donbass Arena is one of the most imposing structures I have seen in the world of football and no expense has been spared to make this the best possible stage. The place should be rocking when the national team plays two group matches there.

As far as the other infrastructure is concerned, I am honestly impressed by the work Ukraine has been able to do in the last year-and-a-half. I saw pictures of what the hotels and airports looked like 12 months ago and in many cases there was little more than a hole in the ground. People have now worked around the clock to make sure these buildings are ready in time.

A lot of the credit should go to the man leading the project, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Kolesnikov. He has pushed people to work faster because, according to him, "If we lost Euro 2012, we would never have the chance to organize anything ever again."

So, at a time when the draw for Euro 2012 is just a few days away, rest assured. Both Poland and the Ukraine will be ready for kick-off.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. lefthog

    Euro 2012 will have been a huge oraganizational undertaking for both Poland and Ukraine. That is also the last European Championship with 16 participants.
    From 2016 onwards 24 nations will participate. That means host will have to provide additional stadium infrastructure. Big countries such as France – the 2016 host – will have no problems on that issue.

    But Portugal in 2004, Austria & Switzerland in 2008 as well as Poland & Ukraine next year were respectively will be stretched to their maximum.

    How is UEFA going to find more than maybe a handful of suitable host countries for such a big tournament?

    November 30, 2011 at 2:05 am | Reply
  2. Manos Staramopoulos (Greece)

    The Ukraine's national Blοchkin is likely to achieve the triumph of Greece in 2004;

    Best Regards to Pedro from Manos

    November 30, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Reply
  3. Panayotis Iscandri

    I wonder if UEFA had not made a mistake to allow Poland especially to co-host the UEFA 2012 tournament, this i must confess, because Poland as a country is full of racism, so therefore countries with black players should be ready for racist statement from the polish, my comment is based on my three month research with in the district and capital city of poland....BE WARNED.....

    November 30, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Reply
  4. From Poland

    Most of the allegations of racism in Poland is a lie, fueled by organizations that receive money for the search of racism. Scale is much smaller, just ask any of the black players playing in Poland. Anyone remembers Emmanuel Olisadebe, black Polish player who scored for the U.S. in WC 2002? Always amazes me how quickly people postulate racist allegations against Poland, but they never been in my country. So, Mr. Panayotis Iscandri, I hope that you will arrive at the tournament and spend a good time, then later admit that you just print the stupidity at Internet. Have a nice day

    December 1, 2011 at 8:46 am | Reply
  5. Barbara P

    I do NOT think that a country like the UKRAINE should either be called a european country nor should they host the European Championship.
    Do people actually know what is going there right now to prepare this country for the championship???????
    Houses being torn down, people just left on the streets with NO remorse, dogs being burned ALIVE in some sort of portable ovens, so that the streets are kinda cleaned of from stray animalsso that drunken fans can just puke their gutts out on "clean" streets????
    What an irony !!!!
    To my mind championships should NEVER be hosted in 3rd world countries and THX Klitscko, I thought you are a MAN, but you are just a puppet like any other politician. Go on kissing but*ts, and close your eyes to reality.

    December 1, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Reply
  6. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Organizers and co-hosts Poland and Ukraine will put up a grand show. Wishing the football teams of the co-hosts all the very best in their on-field efforts. Very positive write up by Senhor Pedro Pinto.

    December 1, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Reply
  7. Lala

    Pedro, Pedro, Pedro, you should be ashamed. In your little piece about who can beat Spain (at the moment it appears half of Europe can to be honest) not ONE word about the Dutch. I can see how the Spanish would want to ignore them since if they'll meet at the Euro's the Dutch will definitely come on top, but last year you claimed the Netherlands (not Holland btw) would win the World Cup. Sloppy work, Pedro, very sloppy work.

    December 1, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Reply
  8. Lala

    @lefthog, I doubt Platini will answer that question truthfully. Ofcourse he'll want only the big countries to organize the Euro's, more chances for a mediocre France team to win because of home advantage. And don't forget: the bigger the countries, the more opportunities for the sponsors.

    December 1, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Reply
  9. Marina

    @Barbara P,

    Want it or not, but Ukraine IS a European country. If you disagree, initiate moving the Ural mountains further eastwards.

    Your statement about people thrown out of their houses is LIE.
    Houses being torn down – WHERE???

    Considering dogs – yes, indeed, treating homeless dogs is a big problem in Ukraine, but this is not "cleaning the streets for Euro"! All those awful cases has been happening for years, unfortunately...

    Anyway, welcome to Ukraine. Come and see by yourself.

    December 2, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Reply
  10. cossack

    I do not recommend to ride to Ukraine.
    Ukraine is an unsafe country. Do you want to know why? Write me.

    December 4, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Reply
  11. gdansk poland

    all of you remember – hatred,intolerance leads to war, Ukraine is the same country like others in Europe.

    December 5, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Reply
  12. Fabiana

    We are thrilled that the matches will be held in eastern Europe and can't wait to tour new exciting cities and stadiums peace and love!

    January 8, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Reply

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