EURO 2012: Poland Spotlight

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The 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, commonly referred to as EURO 2012, will be the 14th European Championship for national football teams sanctioned by UEFA. The final tournament will be hosted by Poland and Ukraine between 8 June and 1 July 2012.

The joint Poland/Ukraine bid was chosen by UEFA's Executive Committee on 18 April 2007, in Cardiff, Wales. This bid defeated the other shortlisted bids from Italy and Croatia/Hungary, becoming the third successful joint bid for the European Championship, after those of Belgium/Netherlands, for Euro 2000, and Austria/Switzerland for EURO 2008. Preparation for EURO 2012 is a huge long–term project for Poland and Ukraine that will generate numerous opportunities across a number of sectors. The project involves the extensive construction and modernisation of new infrastructure. Poland BackgroundPoland is a republic of just under 40m people at the geographical heart of Europe bordering Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belarus, Lithuania, Russia and UEFA EURO 2012 co–hosts Ukraine. In a turbulent history it has been an independent kingdom, united with Lithuania, under occupation from various countries, and since 1918 an independent republic. Under Soviet influence following World War Two, Poland regained full autonomy in 1989 and became a member of the European Union in 2004. Poland has made massive strides away from a centrally–planned economy towards a freer market–oriented economy since the fall of communism in 1989. Huge amounts of effort have been put into the liberalisation of trade, economic restructuring and the adaptation of globally–recognised legal and financial standards. There is a broad consensus across political lines that foreign direct investment is to be welcomed, and the government offers many incentives to attract new firms that can bring capital, technology and jobs to Poland. Poland's entry into the EU in May 2004 was a milestone in the country's political and economic transformation enabling it to access the vast European single market where goods, services, capital and labour flow freely in a way which would have been unimaginable under the old Soviet–based system. These changes have enabled Poland's economy to grow at a much faster rate than many of its European neighbours–it has at times almost reached 'Asian tiger' levels of growth. The largest of the new accession countries in terms of size and population, it is also the biggest recipient of EU funds, receiving €67. 2bn for 2007–13. With economic growth at 4. 8% in 2008, a young and well–educated labour force, and located at the crossroads between Eastern and Western Europe, Poland offers a large potential market in Central Europe. Yet despite the exceptional progress that has been made, Poland is still a transitional economy and suffers from the typical breaks on growth that hinder the development of many of its former Soviet–neighbours. Decades of under–investment in infrastructure, an under–developed banking system and other legacy issues from the previous era all combine to make progress slower than many would wish. The contrast between the old systems and the new approach can be seen at all levels of Polish business life–they even mark out a difference in attitude between the older generation and the new generation who have entered the workforce since end of the communist era. Poland has proven to be a very attractive location for US investors. More than 350 US companies have offices, factories, subsidiaries or joint ventures operating in Poland. Meanwhile, bilateral trade and contacts between the UK and Poland are growing. In 2008, the UK retained its position as Poland's fourth largest trading partner and Poland remained the UK's largest export market in Central and Eastern Europe. UK exports to Poland in 2008 exceeded £2. 9bn i. e. 24% up to the previous year. Fifteen percent of Polish exports worth £4. 2bn went to the UK that year. The total value of trade amounted to £7. 1bn, up 19% compared with 2007. Sport in PolandPoland's popular sports include track and field athletics, basketball, boxing, fencing, American football, handball, ice hockey, swimming, volleyball and weightlifting. The first Polish Formula One driver, Robert Kubica, has also increased popularity of Formula One racing in the country. Football is the country's most popular sport however, with a rich history of international competition. The Polish Football Association (PZPN) was founded in 1919, a year after independence, joining FIFA in 1923 and becoming one of the inaugural UEFA members. The national team made its debut on 18 December 1921, losing 1–0 in Hungary, and now have many achievements to its name. In 1973 the team pipped England to a place at the 1974 FIFA World Cup and finished third, a feat matched in 1982. It also qualified in 1938, 1978, 1986, 2002 and 2006, and made its UEFA European Championship debut in 2008. Poland won Olympic gold in 1972 and silver in 1976 and 1992; further honours have come with victories in the 1993 UEFA European Under–16 Championship and 2001 UEFA European U18 Championship. Poland's heyday in the 1970s and 1980s was inspired by a golden generation. There was midfielder Kazimierz Deyna, defender Władysław Żmuda, goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski, striker Wlodzimierz Lubanski and playmaker Zbigniew Boniek, regarded as one of the best players of all time. Andrzej Szarmach struck 32 times in 61 games for Poland, and striker Grzegorz Lato was the first man to win 100 caps for the country, claiming 45 goals and top scoring at the 1974 World Cup. The Polish top division, the Ekstraklasa, began in 1927 and local rivals Gãrnik Zabrze and Ruch Chorzãw have each won 14 titles. Since the end of the communist era in 1989, Wisła Krakãw and Legia Warszawa have been the dominant clubs. Gãrnik reached the 1969/70 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final in 1970, losing 2–1 to Manchester City FC in Vienna, while more recently Legia won through to the last eight of the 1995/96 UEFA Champions League, finishing above Rosenborg BK and Blackburn Rovers FC in their group. Poland has also made a distinctive mark in motorcycle speedway racing thanks to Tomasz Gollob, a highly successful Polish rider. The Polish mountains are an ideal venue for hiking, skiing and mountain biking and attract millions of tourists every year from all over the world. Baltic beaches and resorts are popular locations for fishing, canoeing, kayaking and a broad–range of other water–themed sports. Physical sport is regulated in Poland by the Physical Culture Act via the Minister of National Education and Sport and the Polish Sports Confederation. The Polish Olympic Committee plays an important role in the country. Over 300, 000 individuals are registered as members of Poland's 57 recognised sports federations. EURO 2012 venuesMunicipal Arena GdanskClub: KS Lechia GdanskAddress: 28 Uczniowska Street, 80–530 GdanskUEFA EURO 2012 capacity: 40, 818Running track: NoTransport links: Rail/Tram/BusThe stadium is located in Gdansk's Letnica neighbourhood close to the waterfront and construction started in 2008. The exterior is designed to resemble amber, which has long been extracted along the Baltic coast. Municipal Stadium PoznanClub: KSS Lech Poznan;Address: 5/7 Bulgarska, PoznanUEFA EURO 2012 capacity: 42, 004Running track: NoTransport links: Bus/TramClose to the city's airport, the Municipal Stadium opened in 1980 and is renowned in Poland for its excellent atmosphere. Renovation work began in 2003 and when concluded, the stadium will be the biggest club ground in the country with fully covered stands. National Stadium WarsawClub: NoneAddress: 1 Zieleniecka Street, WarsawUEFA EURO 2012 capacity: 53, 224Running track: NoTransport links: Train/Bus/TramLocated on the banks of the Vistula, the National Stadium is on the site of the old Tenth Anniversary Stadium. Future home of the Poland national team, its facade resembles a waving Polish flag. Municipal Stadium WroclawClub: WKS Slask WroclawAddress: 4/7 Slaska Street, WroclawUEFA EURO 2012 capacity: 40, 610Running track: NoTransport links: Tram/BusConstructed by the Sleza river and connected to the city centre by a new tram line, the stadium's shape resembles a Chinese lantern. It has been built as part of a complex including offices, conference halls, a fitness centre, casino and the museum of local favourites Śląsk.

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