Financial crisis may help Poland for Euro 2012

WARSAW - Global financial crisis may make the job of preparing for the Euro 2012 football championship easier for Poland as demand for unrelated construction eases and prices drop, a senior official said on Friday. Marcin Herra, who heads the PL.2012 agency preparing for the event, told Reuters in an interview, the global slowdown in investment increased developers' interest in key infrastructure projects, while falling prices of building materials should make the final price-tag lower. Infrastructure work is a major challenge for Poland and co-host Ukraine, which have to build not only stadiums to host the tournament but also roads, airports, railways and hotels. "The crisis and the slowdown will have many consequences for the preparations... There are no more problems with finding employees... This will allow us to make much more rational deals than we previously expected," Herra said. Herra estimated that total infrastructure work linked to the tournament would cost Poland about 20 billion euros ($27.92 billion), with most of the cash coming out of European Union funds, adding that the economic crisis would not impact the financing. However, things are not so rosy in Ukraine, which unlike Poland is not an EU member and so does not have the same access to EU funding. The financial crisis has also badly hit the ex-Soviet republic's economy and exacerbated political tensions. "During our last visit (to Ukraine) we received a declaration from the deputy prime minister that the funding for Euro 2012 is guaranteed by the state. For us that ends the issue," Herra said, playing down Kiev's woes. The Ukrainian economy has taken a big hit from the global crisis, prompting the International Monetary Fund to step in with a loan now worth $17.4 billion. The value of the local hryvnia currency has halved since September. POLISH TRANSFORMATION For Poland, the infrastructure work needed for Euro 2012 is viewed as a timely cushion for its economic slowdown. "The tournament is without doubt a catalyst for the infrastructure transformation Poland has to see," said Herra. Poland was recently complimented by the UEFA head Michel Platini on the steady progress in its preparations. Herra said Warsaw's key National Stadium project was running ahead of schedule, though he added much work remained to do. The groundwork at the stadium is expected to end in March 2009, just in time for selection of the company that will be responsible for building the stadium itself. The construction is planned to start in April and run until mid-2011. UEFA has often said the stadiums in Warsaw and Kiev, slated to host the opening game and the final, are the key investments required for the tournament and must be prepared if Poland and Ukraine do not want to be stripped of hosting rights. UEFA has criticised both countries in the past for slow progress on the preparations, but Herra said by next year the results would be much more visible. "Next year will be the time when construction works start on six stadiums, we see kick-off on extending five airports as well as railroad modernisation and road-building," Herra said. "It will also be a time of much closer cooperation with Ukraine." This week Poland began construction of the Gdansk stadium and selected a developer for modernising the Krakow stadium. It is also expected to announce offers for construction of the Wroclaw stadium later on Friday.


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