UEFA President Michel Platini believes this summer's UEFA EURO 2012 final round will be "a magnificent celebration of European football" – and has thanked co-hosts Poland and Ukraine for their "enormous effort" in bringing the tournament to fruition.
In a welcome message to the UEFA EURO 2012 finalists workshop in Warsaw on Thursday, Mr Platini expressed the conviction that the championship, which takes place from 8 June to 1 July, will fulfil all expectations on and off the field after five years of hard work and preparation.
"First of all, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to you for qualifying for the greatest and hardest of the continental tournaments," Mr Platini told delegates from the 16 finalist teams – including the national-team coaches – who are in Warsaw to fine-tune the organisational aspects of the final round.
"I am also speaking to you as a former colleague of the 16 national team coaches here today," he added. "I understand and share your hopes, your doubts and your desire to succeed. I too have experienced these often contradictory feelings that are part of this wonderful job.
"UEFA EURO 2012 will, like its predecessors, be a magnificent celebration of European football and an ideal showcase for our continent at a time when it faces some very difficult challenges outside the world of sport."
The finalists workshop in the Polish capital is focusing on areas such as match organisation, transport, logistics, accommodation, safety and security, medical matters, marketing as well as media services and operations.
Mr Platini spoke of the road that had been covered over the five years since Poland and Ukraine were appointed as co-hosts of European national-team football's blue-riband competition – one of the major sports events in the world.
"In April 2007 in Cardiff, the UEFA Executive Committee took the brave decision to open European football's flagship tournament to two countries that had never previously organised sports events of such magnitude," he reflected.
"This decision, which made perfect sense and was entirely in keeping with the historical development of Europe since 1989, turned out to be slightly rash in the context of the crisis that struck the world two years later. We therefore spent a long time discussing all the options open to us with the associations and governments concerned.
"The most logical option quickly became obvious to us all: to honour the trust that we had placed in Poland and Ukraine in 2007. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to these two associations, these two governments and, in particular, the Polish and Ukrainian peoples for all the effort they have made to ensure that this tournament is a great success," the UEFA President continued.
"Of course, UEFA has also taken unprecedented steps to offer all the expertise and experience of leading international experts in the different fields of activity in order to make sure everything will be ready when the tournament kicks off.
"After years of hard work and countless difficulties, I am convinced that we have achieved our objective: UEFA EURO 2012 can take place in excellent conditions."
Mr Platini also emphasised that the 16 teams had "the daunting honour of representing the very best that Europe has to offer". "Of course," he said, "I expect you to do so with respect for all the ethical and technical rules that govern our sport, but also that you will be mindful of the enormous effort that the Polish and Ukrainian peoples have made to ensure that your players can express all their talent in the best possible conditions.
"Here, all together, we are safeguarding the Europe of today and building the Europe of tomorrow."
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