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The tournament directors of the two UEFA EURO 2012 host countries, Poland and Ukraine, have spoken of the qualities and national pride that will greet visitors to the final tournament and make the event a resounding success.
Adam Olkowicz and Markiyan Lubkivskyi, representing the Polish and Ukrainian local organising committees and FAs, give in-depth interviews to the latest edition of the official UEFA EURO 2012 newsletter ALIVE, which was published last week.
"It's wonderful that dreams come true," said Poland's Olkowicz. "The chance to stage UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland is the greatest sports adventure of my life." His Ukrainian counterpart Lubkivskyi added: "UEFA EURO 2012 is a unique opportunity to change our country completely. We want to surprise everybody, even ourselves."
The duo are determined that visitors to Poland and Ukraine will go away enthralled by their stay. Olkowicz, born in the Lublin region of eastern Poland, is a self-confessed football fanatic who is responsible for cooperation with the Polish authorities, as well as for tournament information and promotion. Lubkivskyi, from Lviv, has worked for Ukraine's ministry of foreign affairs in various posts, and was named deputy state secretary and adviser to the president of Ukraine in 2006.
Both see UEFA EURO 2012 as an occasion to promote the two countries. "There will be benefits at multiple levels, from the promotion of the country and the improvement of its image – which will be reflected by increased interest from tourists and businesses, as well as other social groups," said Olkowicz, who also highlighted the fact Poland has been a European Union member since 2004. The Polish host cities foresee wonderful opportunities, as their public transport systems and other facilities are being modernised for 2012. "In some ways these benefits cannot be calculated simply in financial terms but will improve our daily existence," he went on.
For Ukraine, Lubkivskyi believes UEFA EURO 2012 will have a massive impact on the country in infrastructure, social and historical terms. "UEFA EURO 2012 is the way to achieve a European standard of living for the population of Ukraine," he explained. "Hosting the country gives us an opportunity to change our country from the inside once and for all. It will bring us not only geopolitical but also investment dividends. It will help integrate our country into the European community."
Olkowicz says Poland's football heritage forms a strong basis for public support. "As Poland has great football traditions, with football being the number one sport, you could say the importance of football goes beyond the realms of sport – this decision sparked undeniable positive reactions." The Poles are strongly behind the event, as surveys show.
Expectations for UEFA EURO 2012 in Ukraine are just as high according to Lubkivskyi. "It is our pride," he reflected. "This feeling is shared among both the public and the politicians. Its successful organisation has become a Ukrainian national idea."
Poland, says its tournament director, is a modern model of peaceful cooperation. "We Poles perceive ourselves as part of a large Slavic and European family, open and positive. We are people with a tough historical background and, as such, with an innate understanding of others and a strong desire to live in peace."
Public support in Ukraine, and especially volunteer help, says Lubkivskyi, is pushing preparations forward. "Our greatest asset is our people, who are trying very hard to successfully organise the continent's largest football celebration, so that the whole world will be charmed by our country for a long time.
"We are convinced you will be pleasantly surprised by our culture and by the hospitality of our people, not to mention the natural beauty of our landscape," Olkowicz and Lubkivskyi say with one voice. With the qualifying competition getting under way, UEFA EURO 2012 is moving tantalisingly closer.
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