Euro 2012 – test of organisation and public engagement
July 25, 2011
Between 8th June and 1st July 2012, 15 matches of the UEFA EURO 2012 Football Championship will be held in Poland. Not everybody realises, however, that at the same time one more match will be played, a match of the utmost importance for Poland. Poland’s and Poles’ international image will be at stake in this match. The player that will lead us to victory in this match will be top quality organisation of the Tournament in terms of security, medical care, transport, information and public engagement. All Poles will play Euro 2012, because in fact we are all hosts of this Tournament.
Experiences of other major sports events’ hosts clearly show what is the actual key success factor of such events, what is decisive for participants’ and tourists’ good opinion about it, and consequently for the international image of the host country. Substantial portion of benefits gained by the host country after an international sports event is related to the image developed in course of the event. Increased tourist traffic and improved foreign investors’ trust are the elements dependent primarily on the image built by the country during the event.
Will the infrastructure be enough to succeed?
A modern spacious airport terminal, extended municipal and national transport network, high quality road infrastructure, modern and fast trains, beautiful stadiums. Is this enough to enchant tourists and fans and to raise their durable interest in our country? As it turns out, for sure not. One needs only to imagine a modern terminal or a beautiful, state-of-the-art railway station where one cannot obtain any information about the event, municipal transport, accommodation or event-related city attractions, and rude people working at information desks and in ticket offices. Another example would be an extensive city transport system including modern busses, tramways and underground rail. However, without basic information fans and tourists expect in such places – which line goes to the stadium, how can I get to the fan zone – will this be enough? What if a tourist is forced to travel alone across Warsaw using municipal transport changing from a bus to a tram and then to the underground? What will he think of Poland when due to lack of information he chooses a wrong line, buys a wrong ticket and is unable to communicate in the ticket office, because the operator does not know a single phrase in English?
Road to success leads through complementing infrastructure with good organisation and building public involvement to make sure that each citizen of the country feels a host of the event.
Welcome to Poland, or high quality service and information from the first minute
Fans and tourists arriving in Poland during Euro 2012 will definitely notice modern and neat passenger terminal at the airport. Image of the country will be shaped in his/her eyes from the first minute after landing. According to some public relations theories, it is the first image of the country that may be the most important for him/her. Thus, it will be important whether his/her flight is delayed or not. Solutions that guarantee uninterrupted and effective air traffic are being developed by PL.2012 in cooperation with such partners as Civil Aviation Authority and Polish Air Navigation Services Agency. The key to success will be to develop air control and aircraft ground management systems capable of handling much more intensive traffic. The most important factor of uninterrupted traffic will be the implementation of the so-called slot management, i.e. management of time slots between takeoffs and landings. Another very important thing will be to ensure enough aircraft parking space, therefore each airport in Host Cities is supplied with a supporting airport whose main role is to ensure such space and, if necessary, also passenger service.
After landing it will be essential to ensure the quickest possible passenger and luggage check-in service – PL.2012 together with airports are working on this subject. Soon after luggage claim a foreigner will expect basic information about municipal transport, ways of getting to the stadium, fan zone, hotels, and tourist and entertainment attractions in the city. He/she will get such information from volunteers in Host Cities’ Volunteers for UEFA EURO 2012 whose task will be to supply basic information about the Tournament, municipal transport, and tourist attractions in each of the 4 Host Cities. Nearly 3 thousand volunteers will be working at airports and in other important city points, such as railway stations, areas around stadiums, main transport pathways and fan zones. Each volunteer will have communicative English skills, a key requirement during recruitment that will start in autumn 2011. Already today there is a very big interest in the project.
After leaving airport fans will have to move around on their own in a big city in an unknown country. Where does one buy a public transport ticket? Which ticket is right for the tramway and which one for the bus? Which line goes to the stadium and which one to the hotel? Also here information is needed. Fans will get it from the abovementioned volunteers and, e.g. ticket office and information desk operators, and even city bus drivers. Around 2.5 thousand employees of the so-called public service, i.e. for example employees of ticket offices, information desks, as well as restaurant staff and public transport employees will be trained under the joint programme of PL.2012 and Voivodeship Offices called “Academia Euro”. Courses will include English training and will provide trainees with basic knowledge about the Tournament, tourist attractions of the Host City and the region, as well as about cultural differences. The project is co-funded by the European Union and implemented in 4 voivodeships of the Host Cities.
High-quality Tournament organisation in Poland will start abroad and long before it begins. Since December 2011 fans and tourists will be offered a new product – the Polish Pass, an innovation in the history of sports events worldwide. It will be distributed through a dedicated website and selected booking portals. With the Polish Pass, long before the Tournament starts, fans in their own countries will be able to use the internet to book a hotel, purchase health insurance, buy tickets for municipal transport, intercity transport and even airline tickets for flights between Poland and Ukraine. All that will be included in one document. In other words, whether on a city bus, tramway, underground, in a health centre, and even in a hotel, fans in Poland will be using only one document. Fans will arrive in our country feeling comfortable and safe.
Poland seen from behind the wheel
What, on the other hand, will be the expectations of a Euro 2012 fan or tourist travelling across Poland by car? First of all, he will expect correct road signage – both on intercity roads and within cities. In case of the latter, a coherent signage in all cities will be important. Of course, this means signage of the most important Tournament spots, e.g. stadium access, airport and fan zone. Apart from signage, travel time between cities and within cities will be important. Here, organisation plays as important role as infrastructure. Already today the so-called Mobility Concept is ready. It is being developed both on the national level to cover intercity traffic and on the level of each of the 4 Host Cities. The purpose of Mobility Concept is to determine the most appropriate and effective transport routes, means of transport, as well as correct road and railway traffic management. Details of expected traffic on each day, and even each hour, volumes, nationalities and directions from which fans and tourists will travel must be covered in the plan. At the moment the so-called transport scenarios are being developed taking into the account different combinations – depending on which national representations will qualify for the Tournament. On 2ndDecember 2011, after the draw for Tournament groups in Kiev, we will know which teams and when will play in each of the Polish cities. Then one of the scenarios will be implemented accordingly.
Modern stadiums and airport terminals, network of motorways and express roads or modern, fast trains is definitely not enough for a country organising an international sports event to succeed. The indispensable factor is the high-quality organisation in each area – safety, medical care or transport. It is organisation and tourist and fan service quality that influence to a greatest extent the final appraisal of the country and its international image gained as a result of the event. One must also be aware that in fact it is all Poles who are hosts of the Tournament – a competent ticket office operator, a customs officer at the airport, a smiling and helpful city bus driver, and even Teresa, the local shop assistant. Tourists and fans will have very extensive contacts with Poland and Poles. Poland’s future image and profits from the Tournament will depend on impressions they get from interacting with us and the country. Therefore, the most important actions in the last year of preparation to Euro 2012 are the organisational projects by public authorities, as well as building public awareness that for the 23 days of June 2012 everyone will be a host.
The President of The Board, PL.2012