With seven venues inaugurated and the eyes of the world on Kyiv ahead of tonight's finals draw, UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino says preparations for UEFA EURO 2012 are progressing smoothly.
Speaking at the Olympic Stadium, venue for the final on 1 July next year, Mr Infantino praised the diligent work done in Poland and Ukraine to ensure both host countries are ready for the 16-team championship and the influx of supporters it will bring.
"The sun is shining, the sky is blue and we're sat in this beautiful stadium," he said. "If these are not all fantastic signals for what will be ahead of us then it's certainly an excellent start. Preparations are going very well. Seven of the eight stadiums have been inaugurated and the national stadium in Warsaw hosts its first game on 29 February."
Turning to the infrastructure, he continued: "Airports, roads, train stations and hotels have been developed or built from scratch. Poland and Ukraine are ready to cope with massive influx of tourists next summer. Work that normally takes 20 years has been done in a few years. This will leave a lasting legacy long after the final whistle is blown."
Mr Infantino is confident the drama will be played out in front of sell-out crowds, with more than 12 million applications submitted by fans for 500,000 tickets in the initial sales phase earlier this year – an increase of more than 17% on UEFA EURO 2008.
"Staging the European Championship is a source of great pride and the finals will offer unforgettable memories to visitors next summer," added Mr Infantino. "And there will be lots of them, shown by the demand for tickets. From 12 December supporters [of the participating teams] will be able to buy the remaining tickets on UEFA.com. I'm sure fans will leave Poland and Ukraine with positive memories of a historical occasion."
The UEFA General Secretary also thanked the host countries, regions and host cities "for all their hard work until now and the hard and good work they will put in until the end of the tournament". The two men leading those delegations, Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) president Grigoriy Surkis and Polish Football Federation (PZPN) president Grzegorz Lato, sat either side of Mr Infantino at Friday's press conference.
Mr Surkis said: "Back in 2004 the idea of the final of the continental championship coming here seemed something fantastic and unachievable. I would like to thank [UEFA] for their strong nerve, patience and wisdom. It's been a long and hard journey – those who come will see everything with their own eyes and will appreciate all our efforts. Visiting fans can expect great hospitality from the Ukrainian cities. Our national team has felt the spirit of all our host cities."
Mr Lato added: "These are two big countries where football is the national sport. Please be certain that this great festival will run smoothly but the sporting aspect is the most important. Polish society expects success and we believe the national team will achieve success. I sincerely hope we'll play at a top level to match the modern stadiums. I'm confident the popularity and standard of football will improve substantially."
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