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Europe

UEFA to decide on trimming Ukraine Euro 2012 host cities

As the world looks to South Africa for the World Cup, Ukraine is concerned about its own plans to co-host the Euro 2012 soccer championships. With construction far behind schedule, the decision rests with UEFA.

Stadium construction site in Lviv

Lviv is the most problematic of all four scheduled host cities

Officials from European football's governing body UEFA meet on Wednesday to decide whether Ukraine has sufficiently sped up its preparations for the Euro 2012 football tournament.

Ukraine, which has been badly hit by the economic crisis, is far behind schedule on the many necessary infrastructure projects like new or renovated stadiums and airports. The stadium in the western city of Lviv, for example, is little more than a concrete skeleton.

Ukrainian football fans

Ukrainian football fans may have less to cheer about

Because of Ukraine's poor progress in Lviv and elsewhere, UEFA last month gave the country an ultimatum: Speed up construction or face the possibility of losing one or more of your host cities.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Kolesnikov is the designated "savior of the Euro" and is responsible for all questions on the tournament. He said while he could not forsee the decision UEFA would take, he was sure that the stadium in Lviv would be finished in September 2011.

"The new government has carefully analyzed the situation and plans for all objects being built for Euro 2012," he told Deutsche Welle. "Where necessary we have changed contractors and construction site managers, and we have accelerated the speed of work."

Who's to blame?

Kolesnikov has visited the construction sites in the four scheduled host cities several times, sometimes alongside President Victor Yanukovych.

Yanukovych has only been in office since February, and thus has the luxury of being able to blame the previous president and prime minister for the delays.

President Victor Yanukovich

Yanukovich blames the old government for the delays

But UEFA is interested in progress, which only the current administration can deliver, according to Andriy Kapustin, head of the public control committee of Euro 2012 in Ukraine.

"Ukraine has been talking about (the Euro) since the end of 2007, and it's the only chance we have to feel like we are a truly European country," he said. "The new government and president cannot afford to fail - it would not only harm the prestige of the country, but the reputation of those in power."

Economic factors

The Ukrainian government is understandably in a difficult position. The economic crisis caused the country's economy to shrink by 15 percent in 2009. Poland, which is set to host the Euro 2012 alongside Ukraine, has escaped relatively unscathed in comparison.

Despite the tight state budget, Ukrainian lawmakers have allocated nearly three billion euros ($3.7 billion) in additional funds for the construction sites in an effort to gain the UEFA's trust.

They have also appointed soccer legend Oleksander Savarov as an official advisor to the organization committee, hoping he might sway the opinions of UEFA officials, many of whom are former players themselves.

Worries outside of Lviv

Finished football stadium in Charkow

The stadium in Charkow is already finished

Besides Lviv, the other three Ukrainian cities slated to host the tournament are Donetsk, Charkow and Kyiv. The stadiums in Donetsk and Charkow are already complete, but plans in the capital are much less optimistic.

The renovation of Kyiv's Soviet-era Olympic Stadium, which is set to host the final, is several months behind schedule. But architect Christian Hoffman of the German firm GMP, which planned the reconstruction, said he was optimistic about Ukraine's ability to make up for lost time.

"I have been working in Ukraine for three years now, and during this time I have gotten to know the Ukrainians," he said. "When time is running out they employ their skills at improvisation. And I am sure they will finish in time."

Author: Mareike Aden (acb)
Editor: Rob Turner

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