EURO 2012: Ukraine 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. Ukraine BackgroundThe modern republic of Ukraine, home to over 46m people, was declared in 1991 but the nation's history goes back far longer. Indeed, the state of Kyivan Rus–based around Kyiv–was the dominant regional force in the medieval period, and was converted to Orthodox Christianity by St Volodymyr in 988. However, from the Mongol sacking of Kyiv in 1240, geographical Ukraine became dominated by neighbouring powers and only achieved independence following the Russian revolution in 1917, although it was soon incorporated into the USSR. On the restoration of independence, Ukraine became the largest country by area that is wholly contained in Europe, although the European part of Russia is larger. The official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, but due to many decades of occupation by the Soviet Union, the Russian language is widely spoken, especially in cities. Russian is the primary language in business and in most other areas in the major cities. Ukrainian authorities regularly try to encourage foreign investment and the broader public is well disposed to foreign investment. Investment permits are not required, but all enterprises must be established according to the form and procedure prescribed by Ukrainian law and registered with appropriate government agencies. Foreign investors are generally not required to seek special approval from authorities for foreign direct investments although there are some restrictions for foreign investments in the publishing and broadcasting sectors, and foreigners are not allowed to participate in the manufacturing of weapons. Sport in UkraineUkraine is noted for its famous heavyweight boxers as well as its gymnasts. Ukraine has a professional ice hockey league, the Ukrainian Major League. The country's national hockey team has competed in several World Championships and the Olympics. The Ukraine Cricket Association exists to promote the game of cricket in Ukraine and clubs are growing in numbers. Rugby union in the Ukraine is a minor but growing sport. Perhaps the most famous Ukrainian sportsman is Serhiy Bubka, comfortably the greatest pole vaulter of all time. 'Man of Iron' Borys Shakhlin earned seven Olympic golds, an impressive haul though fellow gymnast Larysa Latynina won nine. Other Olympic gold medallists include 1972 100m and 200m champion Valeriy Borzov, and four–times swimming title–winner Yana Klochkova. World heavyweight boxing champions Volodymyr and Vitaliy Klytschko also hail from Ukraine. Football is the country's most popular sport. Ukraine was always a force within the Soviet Union, and in the 1970s and 1980s Valeriy Lobanovskiy's FC Dynamo Kyiv formed the backbone of the national side. The club's pinnacle was reaching the 1988 UEFA European Championship final under Lobanovskiy and his revolutionary coaching methods brought on talents including Oleh Blokhin, Igor Belanov, Anatoliy Demyanenko, Volodymyr Bezsonov and Oleh Protasov. Lobanovskiy continued to coach until his death in 2002 and his statue stands outside the Dynamo stadium that now bears his name. Three of his pupils –Blokhin, Belanov and Andriy Shevchenko–were awarded the Ballon d'Or. The Football Federation of Ukraine was founded in 1991 and the independent national team made their bow against Hungary the following year. Under Blokhin, a team spearheaded by Andriy Shevchenko and Serhiy Rebrov qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, where the team reached the last eight. UEFA EURO 2012 will be the team's debut in the continental finals as an independent nation, but it has competed in the equivalent events for women and in futsal. Ukraine also reached the 2006 UEFA European Under–21 Championship final in Portugal and won the 2009 UEFA European U19 Championship on home soil. EURO 2012 Ukraine's preparations for co–hosting UEFA EURO 2012 are back on track although work still remains, according to the general secretary of European football's governing body. Ukraine's preparations have been peppered by issues from the offset, with serious doubts over Lviv's stadium and airport, Kyiv's Olympic Stadium and Donetsk's airport. UEFA in June 2010 stated that a "strong agenda" of deadlines had been established as Kyiv, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lviv retained their hosting rights to EURO 2012 after a key meeting. The meeting came after UEFA president Michel Platini in April 2010 gave the Ukrainian government until 2 June 2010 to prove it could catch up on preparations for the tournament that have been hampered by the economic downturn, a particularly bitter battle for the Presidency and a harsh winter. The previous month had even seen Platini raise the prospect of Germany or Hungary replacing Ukraine as a co–host of EURO 2012 if preparation problems persisted. However, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino has now confirmed the country's authorities are meeting preparation deadlines. " Lots of work has been done. Deadlines are being met, " Infantino told reporters during a two–day trip to check on the four tournament host cities. " I am fully optimistic over the success of EURO 2012 in Ukraine. The eyes of the world will focus on Ukraine. On 1 July 2012, Kyiv will not be the capital of Ukraine anymore, it will be the capital of Europe and even the capital of the world. You will be proud of your country. " However, Infantino conceded that work still needs to be done to improve accommodation, transport, stadium construction and other infrastructure, warning locals may need to make more of an effort to speak other languages. " It does not help you to have 70, 000 hotel rooms if nobody knows where they are located and how to get there, " he added. " It's unlikely that in the next 18 months the rest of the world will learn Ukrainian, so maybe Ukrainians will use a little effort to learn a few words of foreign languages. " Meanwhile, Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych has published an open letter hailing the organising body's progress in terms of EURO 2012 preparations. " The chance to host the EURO 2012 finals is a great honour for our state; just as proper organisation of the competition is a nationwide indisputable priority, " Yanukovych said in his letter. "The fact that we have caught up with the backlog of works at the infrastructure facilities and returned to well–managed overall process of preparation proves our intentions. However, we accept constructive criticism and wish to resolve any potential problems and threats that may arise during preparations for the championship. "EURO 2012 venues DONBASS ARENAClub: FC Shakhtar DonetskAddress: 189e Cheluskintsev Street, Donetsk 83048UEFA EURO 2012 capacity: 50, 055Running track: NoTransport links: Tram/Bus/TrolleybusOpened in August 2009, this ultra–modern stadium, funded by Shakhtar's wealthy owner Rinat Akhmetov, features an illuminated exterior and infrared heating system. Situated in central Donetsk, at night it lights up the huge fountain built beside it, complete with 30–tonne football, and the surrounding parkland. METALIST STADIUMClub: FC Metalist KharkivAddress: 65 Plekhanivska street, KharkivUEFA EURO 2012 capacity: 38, 500Running track: YesTransport links: Metro/Tram/TrolleybusBuilt in 1926, Metalist's home ground has received several facelifts down the decades–the latest creating the multipurpose Metalist City complex, raising its capacity to over 40, 000 in anticipation of the 2012 European showpiece. Locals call it the Spider Arena as the roof pillars are shaped like the legs of an arachnid. OLYMPIC STADIUM, KYIVClub: NoneAddress: 55 Velyka Vasylkivska street, KyivUEFA EURO 2012 capacity: 63, 195Running track: YesTransport links: Metro/Bus/TrolleybusUEFA EURO 2012's biggest venue is undergoing a full makeover for the finals, including a new transparent roof. NEW LVIV STADIUMClubs: FC Karpaty/FC LvivAddress: Strijska Street–Kiltseva Street, LvivUEFA EURO 2012 capacity: 30, 000 (approx) Running track: NoTransport links: Tram/TrolleybusBased on the UEFA EURO 2008 arena at Klagenfurt, the foundations in this area of parkland on the outskirts of the city were laid in February 2009. Olympic ambitionsUkraine's National Olympic Committee (NOC) has welcomed president Viktor Yanukovych's proposal to bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics by stating the event would take the country "to the next level". Speaking at a meeting of the Council of Regions in Lviv in June 2010, president Yanukovych suggested staging the 2022 Games in the Carpathians outlining that work on a bid should be investigated. The host city for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games will be selected in 2015, but bids must be submitted by 2014. " In the terms of potential and resources, Ukraine is one of the most powerful states in the region, " said NOC president Sergey Bubka. "In order to realise this potential, join the society around the Olympic ideals and values around the idea of a healthy lifestyle, bringing the country to the next level, holding the Olympic Games is the best fit. " Bubka added that the winter resort of Bukovel could be considered as a base for the Games.

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