The President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, has expressed the conviction that the challenge of staging UEFA EURO 2012 together with Poland will be a successful one.
Speaking at the final-round draw ceremony at the Palace of Arts in Kyiv on Friday, Mr Yanukovich thanked all those who were involved in the preparation process for next summer's UEFA European Championship. "But mostly, I would like to congratulate our partners and friends from Poland who accepted this challenge together with us," he said.
"I want to thank all those who have supported us in the preparation process," he continued. "And now I welcome everybody – welcome to Ukraine, welcome to Kiev! We will be extremely happy to welcome the fans – and we hope you will enjoy staying with us."
Mr Yanukovich added that he joined soccer fans across the globe in anticipating a festival of football in the tournament from 8 June to 1 July 2012.
In a video welcome message to the ceremony, UEFA President Michel Platini said that the draw "represents the real kick-off of the final phase of EURO 2012". "Poland and Ukraine have worked tirelessly to organise a fantastic tournament," he went on. "From this evening, along with all of the teams that have qualified, we are going to be writing a piece of football history."
There was also a poignant moment in the proceedings as UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino paid tribute to the Wales national team manager Gary Speed, who passed away last Sunday at the age of 42.
"Gary Speed was one of the great ambassadors of our game, both as a player and, more recently, as coach of the Welsh national team," he said. "In the qualifying phase of this very tournament, he transformed the fortunes of his country. Gary was one of the most popular characters in the game and he will be missed by all who knew him, and many who knew of him," Mr Infantino added.
The UEFA General Secretary congratulated the 16 teams on their participation in the finals. "We are now looking forward to seeing entertainment and passion when the best national teams of Europe take centre stage in the summer of 2012," he concluded.
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