Football fever as Euro 2012 kicks off
The Warsaw Voice- The European football championships, one of the world’s biggest sports events, kick off in Poland today, with the host country hoping to spring a few surprises on the pitch and to make the most of an unrivalled opportunity to promote itself abroad.
The Polish squad kicks off its Euro 2012 campaign by taking on Greece at the flagship National Stadium in Warsaw at 6pm in the opening match of the tournament.
The final will take place July 1 in Kiev, Ukraine, which is the joint host of the championships.
The Polish team is the lowest-ranked squad in the tournament. Football’s governing body FIFA has ranked Poland 65th worldwide, while its opponents in the first stage of the championships are rated much higher: Russia 11th, Greece 14th, and the Czech Republic 26th.
A total of 16 teams -- Poland, Russia, Greece, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Croatia, France, Ukraine, Sweden and England -- will battle it out to be crowned champions of Europe.
This evening, hundreds of dancers from all over the world will take part in a 12-minute opening ceremony in Warsaw directed by Marko Balich, responsible for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Turin 2006 winter Olympics.
The opening match will be watched by Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
With around a million visitors from across Europe and beyond expected to travel to Poland for Euro 2012, the authorities aim to catch the eye of tourists and investors.
They are particularly keen to flaunt the country’s economic credentials -- Poland is the only European Union state to have avoided recession since the global crisis started.
The government has launched a massive logistics and security operation unparalleled in Poland’s recent history in order to ensure the championships go smoothly.