Host countries paying price for UEFA follies

Ukrainian police separate Russian and Ukrainian soccer fans as they fight after a Euro 2012 match...

Ukrainian police separate Russian and Ukrainian soccer fans as they fight after a Euro 2012 match between Russia and the Czech Republic in Lviv, Ukraine, June 8, 2012. (MARIAN STRILTSIY/Reuters)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:03 PM ET

WARSAW - The first week of Euro 2012 is almost in the books.

And it hasn't been flattering to either host nation.

Sadly, the focus in the first week of the tournament has been on incidents away from the pitch.

The spotlight has been on racism, politics and fan confrontation away from the stadium. The discussion has been about price gouging, difficult travel arrangements and infrastructure that was supposed to be completed well before Euro 2012 began -- super highways that remain nothing more than a dirt-strip dream.

Now, that's not particularly unusual that the negatives have been getting more attention than the positives, or in this case the games. A black player being called a monkey is going to attract a whole lot more attention --not the good kind -- than a player who has made a good play.

When UEFA awarded the tournament to eastern European countries for the first time, it crossed another item off its bucket list.

The reasons Poland and Ukraine got to host Euro 2012 are obvious. UEFA believes if a member nation has the capability, it should have the opportunity to host the tournament. It means worldwide exposure, infrastructure dollars and new stadiums.

But has UEFA actually done Poland and Ukraine any favours?

Let's declare our North American and industrialized European nation bias right now.

Given the choice of riding around in first-class trains in Switzerland or slugging along in the Soviet-era iron lungs that are present in Ukraine and Poland, the choice is an easy one.

Given the choice of taking three hours to drive 350 kilometres from one major city to another, or sitting behind a carbon monoxide-spewing, 1950-vintage truck on a two-lane road and taking six hours, the choice again is clear.

Euro 2012 was supposed to fix some of these problems.

Super highways were supposed to be built. Speedy trains were going to whisk fans and media from city to city in little time. The exposure would bring in millions of tourist dollars, not only during the event but later when those tourists would return.

The fast trains didn't materialize and the super highways won't be finished for years, if ever. Some 60% of new roads supposed to be completed in Poland haven't been.

Where will the money come from after the tourists have gone? With the tournament over, why would finishing the highway still remain a priority?

Soccer fans have stayed away in droves. Those who did come aren't travelling as much or spending as much.

Even for major matches in this tournament, scalpers are taking big hits. A midfield ticket to the Spain-Italy group game could be had for the equivalent of $80.

Many fans will not return. Once bitten, twice shy as they say.

A week into a tournament that was supposed to provide Poland and Ukraine with an economic boost and polished image, it is having the opposite affect.

But UEFA can wipe its hands of any blame for two reasons.

First, UEFA can claim the tournament is running well and there are no problems. Liked most soccer governing bodies, it is made up of old guys who feel a sense of entitlement. They pay for nothing, never battle a traffic jam and when you dare criticize, it's like water off the back of their $3,000 suit.

Second, UEFA can blame the organizers, saying 'Hey, we gave them what they wanted and they couldn't get it done.'

Either way, this is how soccer aristocrats behave all over the world. Nothing is ever their fault.

You have to feel sympathy for Poland and Ukraine. The problems with racist fans, infrastructure, and organization were there long before the tournament was awarded to the two countries.

How arrogant for UEFA to believe it can fix the problems when no one else has yet.

The tournament may create some jobs in the short term and leave refurbished stadiums to be used by local soccer clubs.

The countries spent billions and continue to spend billions they don't have. The public relations nightmare will remain.

Can anyone suggest the Summer Olympics was good for Greece in the long run?

Go to established countries, where the infrastructure already exists. Do it for the good of the fans and the game.

It's a lesson UEFA needs to finally learn because Poland and Ukraine have paid a big price for it.


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