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Championship of Hospitality
Markiyan Lubkivskyi, UEFA EURO 2012 Tournament Director in Ukraine, talked about football, short- and long-range prospects, and also about preparations for the football competition, speaking with Marysya GOROBETS and Maryna GUDZEVATA from WU Magazine.
Markiyan Lubkivskyi graduated from the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature, Ivan Franko National University in Lviv. From 1993 to 1996 he worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. In 1996, he was appointed attache and third secretary at the Ukrainian embassy in Yugoslavia. From 2000 to 2006 he worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine as head of the press service and official spokesman for the Ministry. In 2006, he was appointed Ukraine’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Markiyan Lubkivskyi has the diplomatic rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine.
In July 2009 he was appointed the UEFA EURO 2012 Tournament Director in Ukraine and the Head of the Local Organizing Committee EURO 2012 Ukraine.
He is married, with two children.
— Mr Lubkivskyi, do you play football?
— Very rarely. Unfortunately, I don’t have time for playing football. And my fifteen-year-old son plays tennis — so no playing football with him either.
In fact, I used to play basketball rather than football, but in 2007, when I was Ukraine’s ambassador to Croatia, I did play football — in a tournament in which teams made up of embassy staffs competed. We, that is the Ukrainian embassy, won the first place defeating the French embassy in the final.
— Now, from the point of view of the “Top UEFA EURO 2012” official in Ukraine, what is your opinion about the preparations in Ukraine and in Poland for the championship?
I can tell you it’s a tough job to get everything organized properly, not a vacation. Besides, it’s a great responsibility. But I like what I am doing — I find the whole thing to be an exciting project. It takes a lot of traveling too — last year, for example, I had to fly to various destinations over 250 times. The total distance I traveled is longer than going over the equator 12 times! I never traveled as much before. The destinations mostly included Kharkiv, Donetsk and Lviv in Ukraine, Warsaw in Poland, which co-hosts EURO 2012 with Ukraine, and Geneva in Switzerland — it is Nyon in the vicinity of Geneva where UEFA headquarters is located.
— Was the final draw a sort of a test too? How did it go?
— In fact, the final draw is a very important event, ranking third in importance after the final match and the opening match. It was indeed a test for us and it went without a hitch.
It took 135 people from the LOC and from UEFA to organize this event, while 246 volunteers provided additional help. These volunteers were strategically placed at the airports, hotels and the Concert Hall Palats Ukrayina, venue for the final draw ceremony. Volunteer drivers, volunteers at the accreditation center and at the information desks had important tasks to perform.
Thanks to this event, we were able to figure out which volunteers did not meet the strict UEFA requirements. The organizers were forced to annul the accreditations that had been given earlier to some of the volunteers who later proved to be unreliable at the training sessions and during work. 700 honorary guests arrived in Kyiv to attend the final draw event — most of them came to Boryspil Airport, Terminals B and F, and the “fast track” procedures helped to get them through the customs and passport control real quick. Some of them arrived at Zhuliany Airport in Kyiv, including UEFA President Michel Platini and the French football star Zinedine Zidane. The final draw event helped us discover the things which had to be improved in the work of both airports.
— Do you know what was the opinion of foreign guests and journalists present at the final draw ceremony in Kyiv about this event?
— It was recognized to have been the best organized final draw among all the previous UEFA final draw events. Careful planning was the decisive factor. Transportation was a key factor too — plus logistics, security, accreditation and technical support. All of these things together worked without a hitch and resulted in success.
— How do you explain the fact that most of the national football teams have chosen to stay in Poland rather than in Ukraine, even though they will play their group matches in Ukraine?
— The choice of team base camps very often depends on the decisions of the team’s coaches. Ukrainian training grounds can provide whatever is needed. The results of the final draw also influenced the teams’ decisions. After the draw it became clear that most of the teams would choose to stay in Poland.
The national teams of Russia, Spain, Greece, Croatia and Italy had intended to stay in Ukraine but it turned out that they would play the group stage matches in Poland — and they chose to stay at Polish training centers. Some of the national teams — England, Germany and Portugal, for example, expressed their wish, right from the start, to come to Polish training centers, and then they did not wish to change their plans even though they would play their group matches in Ukraine.
Now Ukraine has to concentrate its efforts on preparations for the influx of soccer fans — their number will have been affected by the fact that the final draw has fixed all the most interesting EURO 2012 matches to be played in Ukraine.
The training centers in Ukraine will not stay idle either — according to the UEFA rules, the national teams that come to play their matches must arrive at their destinations at least twenty four hours before the match, so the national teams of Germany, Portugal, England and Denmark will stay at the Ukrainian training grounds before their matches.
— Are there still any problems that need to be dealt with before the championship kicks off?
— All the major things have already been done, and now we have to take care only of some important details. The stadiums are ready for the championship, new airport terminals are at the last stages of completion. The host cities are working on the development of fan zones. Our main concern now is to ensure that stadiums and other facilities are operational.
The national teams of Germany, England, France, the Netherlands and Portugal will play the matches in their groups in Ukraine. These teams always attract a great number of fans. We are taking measures to ensure the smooth functioning of airports and border crossings which will handle the incoming masses of fans. We have studied all possible scenarios and we are prepared to handle any emerging problems to ensure the smooth border crossings of great numbers of people.
It is also important that the arriving fans are provided with all the necessary information in languages they understand. I am confident that the host cities will be able to deal with such challenges successfully.
— Does the LOC monitor the situation of accommodation of the fans?
— We are doing our best to help the accommodation agencies to provide fans with the information in a convenient form. Ukraine has enough rooms to accommodate all the fans. Eighty percent of fans usually seek the cheapest accommodation available.
What is important is to assess the conditions at all the hotels, hostels and all the other places where the fans will stay, and make sure they meet all the safety and security requirements.
As of the end of January, below twenty percent of all the rooms, which were contracted by the tourist agencies for accommodation of fans, have been booked. The economic crisis has, no doubt, affected the fans’ paying capacity. We advised the tourist agencies to take this fact into consideration. Every host city now can offer affordable accommodation, provided that guests book at least two-night stays. We advise those who plan to come to Ukraine to see the matches to start their search for accommodation at the official UEFA website.
— How many foreign fans are expected to come to Ukraine?
— We are getting ready to host at least 800,000 fans but we will be able to know more precise figures after the end of ticket sales. However, there are always considerable numbers of fans who follow the teams who travel to see the matches without tickets, hoping to watch matches in fan zones. The teams of the Netherlands, England and Germany are followed by particularly big numbers of fans.
— Are those who will be involved in providing services for, or dealing with the incoming fans being trained? And specifically — what about their foreign language training?
— The LOC does not deal with such trainings, but we are monitoring this process and we offer simple and effective solutions. Medical personnel and custom officers, for example, will be assisted by host cities volunteers who speak foreign languages.
— You seem to rely a lot on volunteers — will there be enough of them?
— During the championship, we’ll have two categories of volunteers — UEFA volunteers who will be present at stadiums and other official sites, at certain areas in the airports, at the UEFA headquarters. The volunteers of the host cities will be working at fan zones, in the streets, at rail and bus terminals, and at other places where fans are likely to congregate.
There were a lot of skeptics who doubted that in Ukraine there would be enough volunteers willing to work without pay. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that these volunteers should know foreign languages, English in particular.
But the skepticism faded when almost 24,000 people applied for less than 3,000 volunteer vacancies. In Kyiv the number of applications per one volunteer vacancy was 6.5, and in Ukraine in general there were four applications for one place. It is the absolute record in the history of UEFA.
— What do UEFA officials who come to Ukraine with inspections think of the EURO 2012 preparations in Ukraine?
— Now that we are approaching the completion of our preparations to the championship, visits of UEFA officials to Ukraine occur more and more often. Such visits are part of the work we jointly do — we all are working on this project as one big team. Quite a few UEFA people have come to Ukraine to stay from now until the end of the championship. We, at the LOC, and our UEFA colleagues can confirm that Ukraine has done everything possible to host the championship at a high level, and the UEFA management reiterates their satisfaction with the level of preparedness for the Tournament.
We have worked hard and we expect to host the championship in such a way that will be the best one ever held by UEFA. We have proved we can organize the best final draw ever held, and we do hope we shall be up to the mark at the championship itself.
— What, in your opinion, will be the specific features of the EURO 2012 held in Ukraine?
— UEFA President Michel Platini once said that “Ukraine will do everything in its own Ukrainian way, and Poland will do things in its own Polish way.” Each of these countries will provide its own national flavor, and during the matches the fans will be exposed to the rich Slavic cultures. The Slavic hospitality will also play a role in contributing to making the championship a memorable event. Every visitor will be taken a good care of, every guest will see that we are doing our best.
It is important for us to show the world that Ukraine can do things at a high level of efficiency. We should show that we are free of the stigma of a post-soviet state and change the world’s attitude to us.
EURO 2012 is the first European football championship to be held in Eastern Europe. They say at UEFA that European football moves East. The EURO 2012 championship is a historic event both for Ukraine and Poland, and for UEFA itself.
I do hope that EURO 2012 will be the best European soccer championship ever held.
And I also cherish a hope that people who will come to see the EURO 2012 matches will want to come to Ukraine again to get to know it better. EURO 2012 is only a stage in making Ukraine better known in the world.
Michel Platini and Markiyan Lubkivskyi inspect the newly constructed terminal at Lviv Airport.