One year separates us from the opening games of European Championships that will be hosted by Poland and Ukraine. Fans from all over the Europe are already preparing and planning before the biggest football tournament both countries has ever seen. From the moment Michel Platini opened envelope to reveal who will organize UEFA’s party everybody knew how hard it will be to prepare everything for the opening day of the EURO 2012. Now, 366 days to the first kick of the tournament, there is absolutely no danger that it will be delayed or moved, despite domestic and foreign media in last two years delivering different news about problems in Poland and Ukraine. Even when UEFA and hosting countries tried their best to make that day all about successful work, there are doubts that cannot be missed and silenced.
Situation can be described in two ways, on and off the pitch of course. While Polish national team is not enjoying best press recently, they have won against (second… alright, third string) Argentina and are looking to make it two wins in a row versus France tomorrow. Questions are asked over Franciszek Smuda’s selection, team’s tactics and character but all those doubts have one thing in common – they come out from the good will, hope that this team has the potential to succeed and make the impossible happen. The impossible currently stands for advancing from group stage, though Grzegorz Lato, president of Polish Football Federation, stated that this is minimum for Smuda’s man. Clearly he has not seen any games of Polish team recently.
By potential fans should look at trio Błaszczykowski-Piszczek-Lewandowski that won German championship with Borussia Dortmund, count on Obraniak who did so well in crucial games for Lille, believe in Szczęsny’s talents and finally admit that level of football domestic league has risen and footballers from Polish clubs will not stand out in negative way, fielded along their colleagues from stronger teams abroad. Unfortunately, Franciszek Smuda, once everyone’s favorite for the job, now has fallen out with fans, media and experts because of his decisions and words – that man is full of enthusiasm but clearly his moves so far has not paid off and team is not even anywhere near half-line of the distance that should be covered to make them ready. Ready for the biggest challenge Polish national team faced since communism collapsed.
Off the pitch, it seems to be better – UEFA lately claimed that progress in Poland reached 80%! That’s optimistic and, unfortunately, untrue, if we are not only looking at the stadiums in Wroclaw, Gdansk, Warszawa and Poznan. Problems with those arenas were everywhere. Wroclaw had to change constructor after first year and that delayed the opening by few months but now their plan with stadium looks stabile, even if first games of the new season in Polish league local club Śląsk will have to with limited attendance. Meanwhile, Gdansk is ready, everything shining and new, pitch laid beautifully, seats waiting for fans… but two week too late to organize friendly between Poland and France that was supposed to open this fantastic ground.
National stadium in Warszawa is a complicated one. Being something like a national treasure, this stadium had to be a primary work for Poland, as it is the place where the tournament begins. Unfortunately problems occurred in the last months when failing of stairs construction were announced and now the construction is delayed to the end of November. Sadly, several events are in doubt, one had to be called off and also the big opening, match versus Germany, may be moved to the other city. Poznan is ready – Lech is playing there, fans from Europe had the chance to see the magic of the arena during games between Polish club and Manchester City or Juventus during Europa League. Unfortunately, the construction of the stadium means that the pitch is not getting enough light and it has been re-laid several times already, costs mounting and no solution found so far. Poznan authorities assure that everything will be fine during EURO’s games, even with escapes routes and communication around the ground – UEFA had few doubts about them as well…
But EURO is not only about stadiums, matches and even events that will be held in those cities – I can assure you all that it will be great fun. Unfortunately for Poland, there is much more that has to be prepared – roads, airports, railways, rail stations, park places, hotels… it’s all needed for hordes of fans to happily spend their time (and money) in Poland during the tournament. And come back with wives and kids for more adventures, not connected to football this time.
Unfortunately, it looks much worse in that terms. The perspective of huge traffic jams every time fans will have to switch cities, due to lack of highways, is beginning to be a real threat. Even though delays aren’t as big everywhere as on several routes (mainly key connections between Wroclaw and Warszawa, also from Poznan to Gdansk) – Polish Supreme Audit Office claims that in total we will be short of just over 400 kilometers, crucial for communications. Despite that negative news government promises to do whatever it takes to prepare much more and make those problems for fans as small as possible.
‘Still, even if football fans opt for a train, they may come up against some difficulties’ – we read from SAO statement about preparations for EURO 2012 – The Polish Railways company has not provided funds for financing the modernization of the Warszawa Wschodnia station and of the western section of the Poznań Główny station’. But there are further doubts over other big and important rail station in Polish capital, Warszawa Zachodnia, as report states – ‘By the end of 2010 repairs were not started yet, and its location is of key importance for the passenger movement in Warszawa. It is the first and the final station for trains travelling to the east and to the north, as well as the place where passengers change for buses, both international and domestic.’
Although Supreme Audit Office claims that those delays can threaten the proper organization of the event, I have less fears about it. Yes, I’m ready to get on with all those critics saying that Poles failed, that someone spend too much times on roads than drinking Polish finest, that he failed to get a seat in train or missed his bus. To be fair – things like this happen all the time and everywhere, there is no perfect recipe and possibility to host perfect tournament, as huge as the one Poles will. Fans will care much more about football, about fun they had and we are ready to deliver both – on beautiful stadiums, in fantastic cities and with smiles on our faces.
There are doubts, about hooliganism, thieves and all the stuff I mentioned but someone from Poland who will not appreciate what a chance hosting this tournament gave to our country should be regarded as insane. Changes are not only for the month that will be given to football fans from all over the Europe in Poland but for the next decades. Over the last two decades nothing has changed so rapidly as roads, stadiums, cities from the moment we were given the privilege to host EURO 2012. We were given the chance to make huge step forward and we will took it very well, silencing voices criticizing now the preparations.
'Despite problems, we work effectively. We cannot let ourselves bring this country down in preparations' – says Marcin Herra, president of PL.2012 company. I’m sure we won’t. Come next summer to witness changes and fantastic atmosphere during EURO 2012. We will deliver.