Ceremonies and celebrations took place across Poland and Ukraine on Wednesday as the co-hosts marked one year to go until UEFA EURO 2012 kicks off.
The unveiling of a huge countdown clock in Kyiv was at the heart of Ukraine's festivities. The 13-tonne timepiece, which is situated near the capital's city hall, will be the biggest among the host cities. The ceremony was attended by a host of local dignitaries and celebrities, led by head of Kyiv state administration Oleksandr Popov.
"I am very confident our city will be well prepared for the finals," said Popov. "All major infrastructures are being built this year. We want to do more and more so that our guests next summer leave Kyiv with a favourable impression."
Kharkiv and Donetsk will unveil their own countdown clocks with 300 and 100 days to go respectively. Lviv's timepiece, meanwhile, located next to the city's famous opera house and financed by Coca-Cola, one of the tournament's official partners, was launched simultaneously with the one in Kyiv.
"We are happy to present another attraction for our tourists," said Oleg Zasadniy, Lviv's EURO director. "Every day it will remind them and all others about the upcoming tournament." Also on hand in Lviv were three Friends of EURO, Stepan Yurchyshyn, Igor Kulchytskiy and Olga Romanova. The city centre witnessed street football matches, dribbling and penalty competitions, and EURO quizzes for children as part of the action.
Sporting competitions and activities were also much in evidence in Donetsk's AS Scherbakov Park, which is situated near the site earmarked as a fan zone for next summer's tournament. While mountain biking and street football featured among the events, Kharkiv had begun its festivities early, with Saturday seeing children take to the city's Svobody Square. On Wednesday, meanwhile, a four-day tournament between journalists commenced.
Over in Poland, the capital Warsaw unveiled flowerbeds across the city and held a media conference giving the latest on their preparations, attended by UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino. At the same time new Friends of EURO were presented, headed by former Poland goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek. The celebrations will continue on Saturday when a bridge over the river Vistula will be decorated as part of a day of food and fun.
In Gdansk they had a children's tournament, From Coca-Cola Cup to EURO 2012. "The main goal of this year's edition is to find talents who will one day play at a big tournament like EURO," said Katarzyna Borucka, director of corporate sales for Coca-Cola. "One of the kids who took part in past editions of our tournament was Robert Lewandowski, now one of the biggest stars of the Poland national team. He will play at EURO and now we are looking for new ones."
Poznan's celebrations got under way on Saturday and are running for a week, with several monuments decked with 'One year to go' scarves. This coming Saturday a party will be held on the banks of Lake Malta, and mayor Ryszard Grobelny said: "We invite all families, youngsters and students. Please come along – we want to use this positive energy and enthusiasm which always surrounds big football events. We can't wait to welcome all fans and guests who will come here."
The peak of Wroclaw's festivities was an artistic performance at the city's multimedia fountain, using lasers, water, music and dancing. This was followed by an open-air concert into the night and a display by the Polish football freestyler Krzysztof Golonka. A special guest at the event was Manchester United FC goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak, who was raised in Wrocław.
"It's my city, that's why I am always coming here," said Kuszczak. "I wish all the best to the organisers of EURO. It's a huge chance for Poland and of course for Polish football. I hope Polish sides will soon be able to compete with the strongest teams from across Europe. Especially [2011/12 UEFA Europa League contenders WKS] Śląsk Wrocław, because I am still a fan."
Also on Wednesday, in all four Polish host cities, the first adidas products landed on the shelves of the official tournament shops of INTERSPORT, official sports retailer of UEFA EURO 2012. On Thursday, the grand opening of the INTERSPORT outlet at Warsaw Golden Terraces will be held with a UEFA EURO 2012 fashion parade involving football personalities, the Henri Delaunay Cup, and tournament mascots Slavek and Slavko.
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