UEFA head Platini checks Ukraine`s Euro 2012 preparations
UEFA head Michel Platini was in Kiev
Poland and Ukraine were named hosts for the presige event in April 2007. Since then bureaucratic squabbles and government inaction have stymied Ukrainian efforts actually to begin preparations.
Platini was scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Thursday afternoon, in the first of two days of talks with leaders of the former Soviet republic.
The blue-ribbon UEFA delegation headed by Platini and including General Secretary David Taylor, Vice President Senes Erik, and others arrived from Warsaw, after Wednesday discussions with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
The UEFA inspection group`s mission is to check personally how well or poorly Poland and Ukraine are getting ready to host Euro 2012, and to determine problem areas needing attention, Platini told reporters before departing on the tour.
Platini`s delegation is scheduled to publish a formal report its findings to the UEFA during meetings in Bordeaux France, on September 25 and 26.
Ukrainian media has widely reported UEFA leadership is considering reducing the number of games held in Ukraine, or sacking Ukraine entirely as a host, because of Kiev`s overall inability to get ready for the tournament so far.
UEFA officials are considering Germany, Spain, and Italy as alternates to Ukraine according to the news reports. Platini at the outset of his trip denied the allegations, saying the UEFA "was only thinking (of holding Euro 2012) in Poland and Ukraine."
Yury Pavlenko, Ukraine`s Minister of Sport and one of the coutnry`s top officials for Euro2012 preparations, told Sehodnia newspaper "We (Ukraine) have no fear, we are preparing our presentation (for Platini). We will place an accent on those areas that, according to the UEFA, have a high level of risk."
Pavlenko predicted the UEFA delegation would be satisfied by his government explainations, saying "For all questions (the UEFA has) we have solid answers."
The group of tasks Ukraine must complete, in order to host Euro 2012, is daunting and expensive.
Topping the list is the country`s premier game venue, Olympic Stadium in Kiev, whose overhaul has been stalled more than a year due to a land ownership legal battle between two powerful commercial clans in the capital.
Construction crews most recently returned to the stadium on Wednesday, one day before Platini`s arrival.
A Kiev court order stemming from lawsuits between the two commercial clans had frozen work on the 90,000-seat venue since March.
Ukraine will require investment totaling more than 20 billion dollars to host the championship, of which 3.4 billion are needed in 2008 alone, according to details of the government plan leaked to the Interfax news agency.
Ukraine`s government is planning to support the Euro 2012 preparations programme with only a fraction of the total cash needed, with the government budget slated to provide some 4.5 billion dollars, according to the report.
The remainder Ukraine by the terms of the Euro 2012 plan hopes to receive in private and mostly foreign investment - a plan questioned by critics noting Ukraine has one of the lowest levels of foreign investment of any European nation.
Platini is scheduled to travel to Kazakhstan and then Azerbaijan after visiting Ukraine.