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Co-hosts mark 500 days until UEFA EURO 2012

UEFA president Michel Platini reminded the co-hosts that "every day counts" as Poland and Ukraine staged a series of special events to mark 500 days until UEFA EURO 2012 kicks off.

UEFA EURO 2012 – 500 days to go ©Valeriy Dudush

UEFA president Michel Platini said the co-host nations had made "tremendous progress" as Poland and Ukraine staged celebrations to signal 500 days to go until UEFA EURO 2012 kicks off.

"We have seen tremendous progress in the last year including new stadiums inaugurated and new air terminals put in operation," said Mr Platini. "The pace of the work has made us at UEFA very confident that the necessary infrastructure will be ready well in advance."

He added: "Five hundred days may seem a long time to go, but for an event of such magnitude every day counts and we are going to continue our fruitful partnership with the governments of the host countries, the host cities and the local organising committees to ensure a festive and unforgettable UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine."

All four host cities in Ukraine marked the latest EURO milestone. In Kharkiv, 2,000 schoolchildren attended a special lesson called 'We are the hosts of EURO 2012' at the city's main concert hall, with national tournament organiser Markiyan Lubkivskiy among the speakers.

"Five hundred days to EURO 2012 is a real milestone in our preparations," Lubkivskiy explained. "From today we can start the countdown to kick-off, and this is a significant signal to the tournament organisers, the host countries and the fans. Time is ticking on and we will not waste even a minute. In 500 days, Ukraine and Poland will welcome guests from all over the world for the greatest footballing event in Europe."

Meanwhile, in Donetsk, mayor Olexandr Lukyanchenko presented his city's marketing programme for the finals, and demanded even more commitment as the finals draw closer. "We have to put even more effort in as preparing for the tournament is a huge responsibility for the city and the whole region," he said. "We must fulfil our obligations."

Quizzes and competitions in the local media – and out on the streets – helped spread the 500 days to go message in Lviv. Kyiv – host city for the final itself – held a series of round-table discussions which culminated in the signing of a special agreement between the capital's administration and the local student governing body on the selection and training of volunteers for the finals.

Over in Gdansk, Poland, deputy mayor Andrzej Bojanowski and local sports chief Andrzej Trojanowski unveiled a special countdown clock to focus attention on what is to come. "There are as many as 500 days to go and at the same time only 500 days left," said Bojanowski. "We have done a great job so far, but there are so many more things to be done and a period of hard work lies ahead. We cannot waste these 500 days."

A photo exhibition in Poznan's main railway station celebrated the advent of the finals, with the city's UEFA EURO 2012 co-ordinator Michał Prymas telling UEFA.com: "It has all kinds of photos, from Mr Platini announcing in Cardiff that the finals would be in Poland and Ukraine, through to our celebrations when we mark another 100 days gone until EURO, as well as Sting's concert on the opening night at the Municipal Stadium and Poland's first game at the same venue against Ivory Coast."

Poznan has also unveiled a special 400kg bronze statue of its new stadium, made by local sculptor Roman Kosmala, which will be housed inside the arena and will help blind visitors get an idea of the shape of the venue. "This may be a small thing, but it is huge for me," said Prymas. "This model is a symbol. Thanks to it, we can show disabled people that the coming EURO is for them as well. I was really profoundly touched during the ceremony by blind people's enthusiasm for our idea."