Ukraine to "surprise" Euro visitors
Ukraine will surprise the footballing world with the success of Euro 2012, the country's tournament director Markiyan Lubkivskyi predicted.
This summer will be the first time the Eastern European nation has hosted the tournament, which it will do so alongside Poland from June 8.
Both nations have overcome a series of questions over their suitability to host Euro 2012 and, while a few thorny issues remain, Lubkivskyi is happy with the progress being made and expects the tournament to be a success.
"Believe me, these Euros for us are something really very complicated,'' he said in Kiev. "It is a challenging project. We are not hiding things. It is really taking us a lot of effort to organise this and we will do our best.
"We will not only surprise foreigners who will visit Ukraine, but we will surprise ourselves. For me, as a diplomat, this is the first step for Ukraine in European integration, to share European values. This will be a very small step, but this will bring us to a united Europe.''
Lubkivskyi was speaking at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev on Wednesday, which will host three Group D matches, a quarter-final and the final.
Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lviv will also host matches during the tournament and Lubkivskyi expects Ukraine to prove the perfect hosts.
"We expect around 800,000 supporters to visit Ukraine during the tournament,'' he continued. "Some of them will be ticket holders and some of them will come without tickets. We welcome everybody as this for us is a unique chance to present Ukraine.
"This is something we need to do and, as I said, I think everybody will be surprised with the Ukrainian hospitality.
"We have a lot of problems, we are not a well-developed country like Austria or Switzerland, but we will surprise people with Ukrainian hospitality and openness.
"Everybody is welcome and nobody will be stopped at the border because they have no ticket.''
Lubkivskyi's comments echoed the sentiments of former Arsenal and Ukraine defender Oleg Luzhny. The 43-year-old now manages Dynamo Kiev and believes Euro 2012 will provide immediate benefits as well as others that will become evident later down the line.
"I wish I was 10 years younger so I could play,'' Luzhny said. "Maybe even 15 years younger, actually. It will be special for the country. It will be good for young players, for children and will improve football in Ukraine as a whole.
"Everything has changed in the country as a result of Euro 2012. Airports, roads, hotels, stadiums - everything.''