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Poland ready for Euro 2012, prime minister says
Euro 2012 co-host Poland has sealed its final preparations for the football showcase, which kicks off in just three weeks, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Thursday.
"The preparations needed for Euro 2012 have been 100 percent accomplished," Tusk confirmed after being briefed by ministers at a session of the tournament's organising committee that was open to the press.
Sports Minister Joanna Mucha, who is at the helm of the committee, told participants that Poland had "reached full operational readiness in line with our plans".
With the European Championship in Poland and neighbouring Ukraine marking the first edition of the 16-nation tournament to take place in the former communist bloc, organisers are keenly aware that they are in the spotlight.
Tusk said that this country's largest ever sports-organisation challenge was about far more than what happens on the pitch, representing a key chance to burnish its reputation by presenting a modern image to outsiders, at odds with communist-era cliches.
"The greatest investment of Euro 2012 isn't the wonderful stadiums, the great airport terminals, the roads and railways stations, even if some still need finishing, but investment in the brand and reputation of Poland among the hundreds of millions who will watch it on TV and the hundreds of thousands who'll come here and won't judge us only on sport," Tusk said.
"We'll be showing the whole of Europe and the the entire world that Poland's a good place, a place where great things happen, great people live and where it's worth coming back to," he added.
Amid concerns about sluggish preparations, Tusk in February shook up his country's organising committee, which brings together ministries, the police and local authorities, among others.
"From February 10 until today, we have carried out all the planned tasks and activities, and adopted guidelines for the operation of all areas of the tournament," Mucha said.
With the region's infrastructure lagging far behind that of previous west European tournament hosts, albeit less so in Poland than Ukraine, the two countries have had their work cut out to get ready.
One notable area under scrutiny in Poland has been the failure to complete a final stretch of motorway that would plug a gap between the capital Warsaw to the main route to the German border.
"I know that everything will be done, every single day of the tournament, to complete the unfinished sections of motorway as fast as possible," Tusk said.
"I'm convinced that no-one in Europe will go home telling stories about Poland's roads, bridges or airports as a symbol of chaos," he added.
During its successful bid to win power from a conservative administration in the 2007 general election, Tusk's centrist party had played up the need to accelerate infrastructure projects ahead of Euro 2012, leaving it vulnerable to critics when things went awry.
But organisers have underlined that most of the hundreds of thousands of supporters set to flood in are due to arrive by plane, and that an airport upgrade has been completed.
Euro 2012 kicks off in Warsaw on June 8 and ends with the final on July 1 in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
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