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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Poland, Ukraine Face Big Challenge

WARSAW -- Poland and Ukraine, hosts of the 2012 European championship, said Thursday that their creaky infrastructures would be whipped into shape for the biggest sporting event in their histories.

UEFA's choice of the Slavic countries on Wednesday raised questions about whether highways, hotels and stadiums neglected during 40 years of communism and the 15 difficult years since would be ready to host the influx of hundreds of thousands of overseas fans for the 16-team tournament in 2012. The announcement that Poland and Ukraine had beaten out favorite Italy and a joint bid from Croatia and Hungary activated plans to spend $2.72 billion already earmarked in each country for sporting infrastructure, such as stadiums.

"We will use all funds at our disposal -- both EU and private funds," Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych told a news conference in Warsaw, after a visit with the Polish Prime Minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

"We know people who value sports more than money."

Earlier, Kaczynski told reporters that he was considering chairing a joint Ukraine-Poland committee to organize the championships.

In Poland, plans are already under way to expand the country's 570-kilometer network of highways sixfold by 2013. The country is counting on $150 billion in funds from the European Union for roads and other infrastructure.

"In the coming years, Poland will look like one big building site," Polish Minister of Regional Development Grazyna Gesicka said.

News that the bid had won triggered celebrations. Warsaw's WIG-20 large cap stock index jumped to a record high and jubilant headlines -- "WE WON!!!" said one -- were splashed across front pages of newspapers in both countries.

Ukrainian officials acknowledged that they faced huge tasks to modernize the crumbling -- and often absent -- infrastructure inherited from Soviet times.

"The prospects of speeding up the development of Ukraine's economy were clear from the outset in the event of victory in the contest to hold the championship," wrote the daily Den.

"But equally clear was the fact that a colossal path lies ahead to turn these ideas into reality."

Plans are under way to upgrade or build from scratch stadiums in host cities. In Ukraine, the largest difficulties are with hotels and road and rail transport.

Kiev alone will need 15 new hotels at a cost of $500 million.

With 80 percent of the country's rolling stock in improper condition, Transport Minister Mykola Rudkovsky has put at $5 billion the cost of upgrading the rail network.

Besides presenting a challenge, Euro 2012 will be a boon to economies in both Poland and Ukraine, which suffer from high unemployment, leaders said.