The UEFA European Football Championship will be hosted by Poland and Ukraine in 3 months. The media success, which is to take place in both host countries, makes the citizens exert a lot of pressure on the authorities. It emerges that the expected violent progress resulting from the preparations of infrastructure for the championship will not take place, while financial benefits will not cover the expenses of organising the event. Where should we then look for benefits from organising it?
In three months, we will hear the first whistle. The championship will undoubtedly become a media success. The representatives of UEFA enthuse about the stage of Polish and Ukrainian preparations: “The progress of infrastructure achieved by the host countries of forthcoming Euro 2012 is fantastic,” said Martin Kallen, Euro 2012 director, in the interview for Polish TVP 1. “In comparison with the state of affairs from four or five years ago, I can say that few European countries could compete with you, and I am not speaking of stadiums only, but also the infrastructure,” he emphasised.
Satisfaction of UEFA is well-grounded. Indeed, it is UEFA that will earn the most. The condition of awarding the title of the host of the championship is tax exemption. That is why the authorities of Poland and Ukraine have prepared appropriate legal regulations for the time of the tournament, thanks to which UEFA will not pay a single grosz or copeck for selling the television coverage rights, advertisements, gadgets or tickets. The sale of box seats at the stadiums where the matches will be held comes under UEFA. Although the owner of the National Stadium in Warsaw is the Polish State Treasury, the decision on and income from the selling the presidential box seats to a Russian businessman, Roman Abramovich, belong to UEFA.
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Gain and loss balance
What are the benefits from Euro 2012 to the host countries? Estimation of financial profits and loss is almost impossible. Everything depends on both the number of tourists who will be willing to visit Ukraine and Poland during and after the championship, and on the use of new buildings and infrastructure. It is obvious, however, that even a repayment of the costs will be very difficult to achieve. Especially as there are more and more delays and cuts. Ukraine will not have the Kyiv-Boryspil express railway and the condition of Ukrainian roads is dreadful. The quality of Polish roads is better, but the road network is not that developed. The Polish Transport Minister admitted: “The condition of roads before Euro is a disaster”. Bear in mind that at the beginning of euphoria caused by granting Poland and Ukraine the title of the hosts, it was said that the progress and modernisation will be similar to that of Western Europe after the Marshall Plan.
The examples of host countries of other similar events indicate that the enthusiasm was ungrounded. Since 1990, 13 big sport events have been organised in Europe: five European football championships, three World Cups, three winter Olympics and two summer Olympics. Only one of these events paid for itself before it ended – the 2006 World Cup in Germany. This exception is understandable – Germans are ready to organise any big events at any moment. They have prepared stadiums as well as road and rail infrastructure.
Success was not enjoyed by Switzerland and Austria during the last Euro 2008. Both countries spent EUR 800 million on the tournament, while the profits were estimated at EUR 415 million. 2004 summer Olympics in Greece turned out to be a financial disaster too. Greece spent EUR 12 billion, getting money from the sale of the government stocks. As a result, the income was EUR 2 billion but at the same time the number of tourists decreased by 20 percent in comparison to the previous year. The Olympics did not entice the admirers of ancient ruins but rather scared them off. The symbol of Greek thrift was the luxurious Olympic village which was later changed into a poorhouse.
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Asset is in lack of thereof?
The cost of Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland is estimated at USD 38 billion. It is undoubtedly a very costly event, after which huge decorations in form of beautiful stadiums will remain. When the last guests leave Poland and Ukraine, the local authorities in both countries will face the problem of further use and maintenance of the stadiums. A few concerts of stars of worldwide renown and matches of local and national teams may not be enough. Soon after the European football championships in Portugal in 2008, Augusto Mateus, former Minister of Economy, called for demolition of the stadiums built or modernised for the event. The cost of their construction and renovation was EUR 1.1 billion in total. From among ten stadiums (seven of which were built for the event), only three did not make a loss.
In Ukraine and Poland, new ideas appear as to what the money spent on sport investments could be used for. This kind of grumbling should be treated with reserve. If it was not for Euro 2012, a part of the investments would not have been started at all, while Poland and Ukraine would still be on the margin of great events in Europe. Maybe those who see the success in non-material benefits from the tournament are right. Maybe the organisational gaps will become the asset of our countries? Ascolumnist for Gazeta Wyborcza Rafał Stec, writes: “The problems resulting from organisational failures frequently add new colour and variety to the adventure, make unforgettable … The tournament is not an all-inclusive for the lazy ones”. Indeed, Roman Abramovich and his guest will probably come by their own planes but the rest will have to count on the country’s infrastructure. With this attitude, the Euro event simply has to be a success.
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Translated by Marta Lityńska