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Nov, 30, 2011

Poland on track as Euro 2012 nears

Ahead of Friday's draw for Euro 2012, UEFA's operations director Martin Kallen is optimistic that Poland and Ukraine will be well organised for the start of the tournament next summer.

UEFA provided a shock back in 2007 by picking the pair over favourites Italy and fellow joint bidders Hungary and Croatia. And now, as the tournament draws closer, UEFA has been impressed with how Poland in particular has responded to some vocal critics of its preparations.

"Criticism is part of the game," Kallen told AFP. "It [Poland] is very close to Portugal in terms of infrastructure and a little bit further behind Switzerland and Austria. But it's not critical. The next six months is a full-on operation. But I think I'm quite calm."

Kallen's main concern is over transport, with Ukraine not having invested in their transport network since the breakup of the Soviet Union. "It will be a different Euro," he said. "On the football side, we want it to be on the same level or a little better than Austria-Switzerland in 2008. But it will never be on the same level in terms of transport."

In Poland, though, it is a better story. Marcin Herra, president of PL.2012 - the body supervising 300 interlinked projects for the European Championships - said: "Everything is planned. Everything has a timescale. We know the risks and we're managing the risks.

"The stadiums are close to 100% ready. The airports, 90%. The overall transport infrastructure in the cities is 80-85%."

Poland's Euro 2012 related investment has been around 90 billion zloty (20 billion euros/$26.5 billion) and is not purely sport-related, with deputy sports and tourism minister Katarzyna Sobierajska maintaining that it is a good chance to change the country for the better.

"Euro 2012 is a great occasion,'' she said. ''Firstly to improve our infrastructure - not only stadiums but also roads, railways and hotels. And then to improve our image on the international market."

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