Ukraine struggles to meet UEFA deadline ahead of Euro 2012

Ukraine struggles to meet UEFA deadline ahead of Euro 2012

Ukraine has until November 30 to convince UEFA that it is ready to host the 2012 European soccer championships.With a projected figure of 1.3 million soccer fans expected to...

Ukraine`s golden opportunity to host Euro 2012 comes with great expectations and high pressure from UEFA, according to Deutsche Welle. But will the country be able to meet UEFA`s looming deadline?

Ukraine has until November 30 to convince UEFA that it is ready to host the 2012 European soccer championships.

With a projected figure of 1.3 million soccer fans expected to attend the championship, Ukraine`s leadership has been scrambling to upgrade the infrastructure in its four host cities. UEFA President Michael Platini has said that there are huge infrastructure problems – stadiums need to be built or renovated and roads need to be repaired – which wstill need to be resolved in Ukraine.

UEFA earlier threatened to strip Ukraine of its co-hosting rights with Poland after it experienced difficulties in building infrastructure in preparation for the championship. However Michael Platini has insisted "we will go to Ukraine." But he has stressed that it is still unclear how many cities in the country will be deemed fit to host games.

Ukraine`s government is fervently pulling out all the stops to prepare for their hosting debut and has ordered entire cities be restored. Around the country, roads, stadiums, sports grounds and hotels are getting a facelift.

Anticipation and excitement about the upcoming championship has unified Ukraine`s government and its people. The country has not sponsored a major sporting event since 1980 when Ukraine co-hosted the Olympic games as a part of the Soviet Union.

Markian Lubkivsky, chairman of Ukraine`s Euro 2012 organizing committee, has noted the effect that the opportunity to host Euro 2012 has had on his country.

"For Ukraine, the championship has helped us overcome identity problems, integrate better into the European community and deepen our relations with Poland," he said.

Financing difficulties

One factor which has complicated Ukraine`s push to prepare for Euro 2012 has been the strain caused by the international financial crisis. State revenues are down 30 percent and Ukraine’s leaders have traded accusations of breaking promises on financing for Euro 2012. Ukraine`s President Viktor Yushchenko said the government had only provided five percent of the $945 million it pledged to spend on the games in 2009.

"The financing program for Euro 2012 is under threat," said the President. "Together with the Central bank and finance ministry, we must find financial resources."

The president was nonetheless also unhappy with an alternative, which was recently approved by Ukraine`s parliament, to finance preparations for the championship,. The new government financing bill stipulates that the country’s National Bank must send the majority of its profits, about $800 million US, into a fund to finance Euro 2012.

President Yushchenko has called that move "fiscally irresponsible" and has unsuccessfully tried to veto it. Many in Ukraine`s government are, however, convinced that even in times as tough as these, the Euro 2012 is a worthy investment.

Ukraine`s sports minister Yurii Pavlenko has said that the championship will surely pay for itself. 

"I am sure that no matter how much money we put into the infrastructure, in the end we will be in the black," said Pavlenko. "But the infrastructure; the roads, stadiums, sports grounds and restored cities will be in good repair. And that’s something we will have for much longer after the championship ... and I think that will take our culture to a new level."

Whether or not Ukraine`s earnest preparations for Euro 2012 will hit the mark and win UEFA`s approval remains to be seen. All eyes are on Ukraine to see if the country will succeed in holding on to its winning bid to host Euro 2012.

By Faith Thomas, Deutsche Welle

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