Lviv Racing to Meet Euro 2012 Deadline

Issue 18, November 2009.

 This month will see Euro 2012-related activity in Lviv rech  a fever pitch as city officials work to meet UEFA’s tough 30  November deadline. In April 2007 Ukraine and Poland were designated as sites to co-host the UEFA European championships  in 2012. This decision is monumental on two fronts.

First, it marked the first occasion since the fall of the Berlin  wall 20 years ago where the UEFA championships would be  held in two countries formerly belonging to the communist camp. Second, for Ukraine still a fledgling democracy belonging  neither to the EU nor NATO, it was one of the biggest single achievements since it gained independence 18 years ago. The  challenge now is to make sure Lviv is selected as a host city.


The Euro dividend


Experience has shown that large international sports events such as the Olympic Games or football championships bring significant benefits to its host countries by way of FDI, infrastructure development  grants and the positivespillover benefits gained from a growth in tourism, the creation of  jobs in the construction and service  industries. If we look at some of the impacts of holding the UEFA Euro championships in previous years, one can see that for Switzerland, which hosted the event in  2008, it proved to be the biggest sports event ever held. The overall direct and indirect economic impacts were substantial, boasting a turnover totaling around CHF 550  million and a gross value added  of about CHF 320 million. In the  case of Portugal in 2004, statistics  show that the National Gross  Product of this country grew by  0.02 to 0.1% thanks to the event  which only lasted a few weeks.

These financial track histories  are very encouraging for Ukraine,  notwithstanding dissenting voices  which negatively assess the impacts  of large international sports  events on host country economies  arguing that events of this nature  often do not meet forecasted returns  on investments and do not  bring long-lasting and sustainable impacts. However, despite these varying opinions, in the case o Ukraine an opportunity to host  the football championships can  only be viewed through a positive  prism because the event will create  opportunities that otherwise  would not exist under normal circumstances  in light of Ukraine’s  current political instability, struggling economy and depressed  employment market.

Thanks to Euro 2012 Ukraine  expects to see additional investments  of USD 7 billion into the country’s economy, which will be forwarded to construction of highways,  stadiums, airports, hotels,  railway reconstruction, technical  refit of local TV and radio companies,  reconstruction of student  dormitories, creation of modern  public  transportation systems, as  well as development of essential  infrastructure in the chosen host  cities. This is an important opportunity and catalyst for Ukraine in  its overall modernization seeing  that over its 18 years of  independence  little attention has been  spent on these important projects   by all subsequent governments.

Euro 2012 is also important for  Ukraine and Poland alike, beyond  the financial returns, as it will allow  both  countries to establish  even closer relations as partners  in business and international relations,  allow them to showcase  their countries to rest of the world  and secure a leap forward in the  standards of life for their citizens.


A cure for regional unemployment?


This is good news for Lviv as  the labour market will be able  to heave a sigh of relief with its  promise of new jobs. According  to Mr. Stepan Lukachek from the Lviv Oblast Administration, works  on a new stadium and infrastructure will create between 3000 new  jobs and another 3000 jobs will  be created in building a new airport  in Lviv. Another 3-4000 new  jobs will be created in engineering  networks, setting up communications  and building new roads. In total another 25, 000 jobs could  be created in Lviv as a result of  the championships. Lukachek  also indicated that another 5000  new jobs will be created in the  service sector.  This is an opportunity that Lviv  cannot afford to miss out on, but  at the same time the question  of whether Lviv will be able to  respond with the required personnel  to complete the works  required still remains to be seen.

The unemployment figures in  western Ukraine hover at around  10% but whether this category of  people will be able to step into  these new positions is still an  open question. Lviv has placed a  large bet on its citizens currently working abroad returning home  and joining the labour force (approximately  1 million Ukrainians are reported to be working in  Russia alone). At the same time,  Ukraine will be in stiff competition  with Poland for workers, as  Polish wage rates are more competitive.  Lviv will also benefit from the  influx of tourists and new vacancies  will need to be filled in the  sectors of hospitality and services.  However, the point here really  is whether Lviv will be ready to provide services to international  tourists in English, which will be  the primary language of interaction,  and will the service standards  be on par with international  standards.


Lviv hoping to win UEFA favour


It must also be noted that on 13 May 2009 the UEFA Executive Committee made a few key decisions  concerning the selection  of host cities for Euro 2012. This included not confirming Donetsk,  Lviv and Kharkiv as host cities for group matches of Euro 2012 for the time being as progress had fallen behind benchmark dates. However, a last deadline has been granted to these three  cities to meet specific conditions  by November 30, 2009 with regard  to the stadiums, airport infrastructure,  regional transport  and accommodation. In light of  the overwhelming  opportunities,  Lviv has no choice but to pull up  its socks before November 30 if  it wants to cash in on the Euro 2012 football championships  and what it will mean for the region.

It must move quickly on its  infrastructure projects and find  the necessary funding to finish  them off before the deadline  runs out. It will also need to hire  and train the right people to host  the influx of tourists who in fact  will multiply information about  Ukraine abroad. Word of mouth  is known to be stronger than  any paid-for advertisement and  is more resilient than any other.

Let us hope that Lviv can meet the challenge, show that it is a word-class city and give itself the opportunity to move forward  despite all of the challenges on  its way.