No Roads for the Euro Championships

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

I know, you probably have enough on your plate as it is to worry about. And goodness knows, they now say this whole financial crisis thing is likely to drag on for a while, so that it’s highly likely that we’ll all need the 2012 European football championships – scheduled to be jointly hosted by Poland and the Ukraine – as some welcome distraction from our everyday cares and fears.

Unfortunately, there is certainly going to be a big problem there in 2012, at least with the Polish half of the tournament. (And the Poles are reckoned to be the more-sophisticated country of the pair – they’re an EU member-state, after all – and therefore a better bet to fulfill their Euro 2012 promises.) The bad news is right there in the headline in Poland’s leading daily, Gazeta Wyborcza: There will not be roads for Euro 2012. It’s in Polish in the original, of course, as is the accompanying article. But still, surely someone from UEFA speaks that language and is monitoring this sort of thing! For heaven’s sake, Gazeta Wyborcza states the following outright, in its lede:

Construction of new highways and expressways is bogging down again. There will not be routes to Euro 2012. Investment in roads won’t help to fight this crisis either, since there is simply too little of it.

It was Polish Minister of Infrastructure Cezary Grabarczyk himself who promised a year ago that Poland intended to build 700 km of new highways and to expand its network of expressways by 2,100 km. However, reporter Andrzej Kublik concludes that that was an unrealistic goal from the very beginning, even as the current effort to build those new roads (as well as to modernize existing routes) represents the biggest such Polish infrastructure program in decades. While things got off to a promising start through 2007 – in terms of meeting intermediate construction quotas – that initial pace then became too difficult to maintain thereafter, even as the quotas were set much more ambitiously starting in 2008. An added element of confusion entered the picture as the government authorities decided to contract for some of the stretches of highway with a private firm, Gdansk Transport Company, rather than rely exclusively on the State highway-building company. (I’ll spare you the full name of the latter; from its initials it’s known as the GDDKiA.) There was a couple of untimely changes in the management of that state company; and other political considerations got involved. The upshot was a series of postponements of completion dates that now threatens to deny UEFA the functioning highway-net (especially between the cities staging the matches!) that it was promised when Poland won the Euro 2012 bid along with the Ukraine.

A frank report like this from Gazeta Wyborcza is refreshing to see, but really, it needs somehow to feed through to UEFA officials. (One can also infer that extra scrutiny on their part of the extent to which the necessary infrastructure – stadiums, roads – is coming along in the Ukraine is warranted as well.) For rather than allow a hopelessly messed-up Euro 2012 tournament to be staged in the countries that agreed to do so but are not ready to ensure that it is a success, there has always existed and still exists the “pull the plug” option to simply re-assign the tournament to some other European country more ready to take over. I’m sure that Germany – to name but one candidate – is ready and able to take the task on.

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