Lviv takes shot at Euro 2012

By bne IntelliNews May 18, 2009

Kester Eddy in Lviv -

In the warm spring sun 6km south of Lviv city centre, a score of construction workers, all neatly clothed in maroon, company-issue overalls, steadily but methodically go through their appointed tasks. So methodically, in fact, that they decline to answer media enquiries - "You should ask the company head; we don't have time to answer questions," says one of the women in the gang in her native Russian.

The workers are now building upon the basic foundations for the new, 30,000-seat Lviv football stadium, needed to help Ukraine co-host the Euro 2012 football championships. It's a scenario, no doubt, that would delight Oleg Zasadnyy, head of the city council's department for the games. In his earlier presentation, Zasadnyy had insisted that the work at the €85m stadium, designed to host the group matches before the knockout part of the chmpionships, was proceeding "according to schedule."

At the airport, work has begun on strengthening and extending the runway by 700 metres to provide a 3.2km strip capable of taking the heaviest jumbo jets; the quaint air terminal, currently stressed (and stressful) if tested by 250 passengers per hour will be refurbished and boosted by a new building, upping the capacity by a factor of seven.

Also needed will be the refurbishment of hotels; a new tram to link the stadium via a Soviet-era suburb to the city centre; new roads and, perhaps more critically, old ones resurfaced; medical centres to be upgraded; street signs to be written in Roman as well as Cyrillic letters; and, perhaps most tellingly, at least for the average Lvivian, tap water will be made available 24/7. (It's currently available 20 hours a day for 70% of the population.) All this will make up for what Andriy Sadovvy, the mayor, calls the "destruction" suffered by the city during the 45 years "Soviet occupation."

Match funding

If the list appears daunting, wait till you see the bill. The airport terminals come to €57m, but the price of the runway proves elusive; the roads €93m; somebody mentions a €50m EBRD loan for the new tramway; and somewhere in the mix €15m pops up for the district heating system. All this for a city which, as the mayor understandably laments, only gets to use 28% of the taxes it creates, puts Lviv in a position of begging from central government; and, inevitably, there is a long queue.

The city leadership insists that the investment will bring dividends, regardless of whether it's chosen as one of the host cities for the football championships. A steady increase in international flights to destinations such as Vienna, Warsaw and Timisoara - with Munich added last month - means passenger figures topped 532,000 last year, a 100% increase in two years.

All very good for commerce and especially tourism, which has grown by an annualised 16% since 2002 to hit 200,000 visitors in 2008 - tiny in comparison even to Krakow, but a key revenue stream for the city nonetheless.

Yet doubts remain. In its publicity materials, Lviv boasts it is six hours by car to Budapest, which seems optimistic given the potholed roads in Ukraine. If the city has factored in similar doses of optimism to its Euro 2012 plans, it might struggle to convince the sport's governing body, UEFA, of the seriousness of its bid.

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