UEFA EURO 2012 has been a long time coming and long talked about too, ever since the UEFA Executive Committee decided back at its meeting in Cardiff in April 2007 to appoint the national football associations of Poland and Ukraine to co-host the tournament.
Now, with the opening match just days away, it is already safe to say that the challenge has been proudly met, despite the various difficulties that have cropped up along the way.
Stadiums have been built or renovated, airports, transport systems and hotels developed and modernised and all the necessary improvements made. In short, both countries are now ready to host our continent's biggest football tournament in conditions worthy of an event of this magnitude.
This, in itself, is extremely encouraging and all the work, effort, discussions, patience and goodwill it has taken to get us this far should be acknowledged. But this is neither the time nor the place for analysis.
Right now, it is all about looking forward to watching Europe's best national teams in action, being bowled over by the feats of the players and sharing the excitement of the supporters – in other words, getting swept up in a great month-long international celebration of football.
This first UEFA European Championship final round to be played in eastern Europe marks a milestone in the history of UEFA's competitions. The work of the organisers must now be matched by the commitment of the players, the attitude of the coaches, the excellence of the referees and, above all, the passion of the fans, whose contribution to the beautiful game is so vital.
I wish you all an exciting UEFA EURO 2012 and look forward to sharing some unforgettable moments with you in Poland and Ukraine.
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