With the London Olympics on everyone’s lips it is worth remembering that ‘first up’ is the European Football Championships UEFA 2012 in Poland/Ukraine and the buzz word in Warsaw is ‘legacy’.
Sport tourism is now recognised as a powerful beast and one that is proven to accelerate change, particularly in boosting the MICE potential of a destination. On the 29 Feb 2012, the inaugural match between Poland and Portugal provided a successful test event in preparation for the 8 June, the tournament’s opening ceremony/match.
The three-week football festival is expected to attract one million visitors to Poland and 400,000 within Warsaw. This will impact on inbound tourism revenues in 2012 and consecutive years and will affect the development of hotel, leisure and ‘cultural infrastructure’. Major hotel brands, such as Marriott, are placing substantial investment in new properties, while an IBIS and IBIS Budget property will open in the near future catering for more affordable rooms. There are a number of unique venues and incentive options around the city to grab the attention of meeting planners.
In pole position is the architecturally refined, 58,000-seater national stadium, designated as a multifunctional venue, enabling the cyclical organisation of sporting and cultural events. From concerts (Madonna in Aug and Cold Play in Sept 2012) to meetings and major conferences within the 22,000sqm of exhibition space and 16 meeting rooms. Similarly, the Copernicus Science Centre; the enormous Palace of Culture and Science, the Baroque surroundings of the Fryderyk Chopin Museum and the former Kosener Vodka distillery are just some of the inspirational backdrops for all types of events.
Infrastructural development and modernization within Warsaw alone is a major part of the long term legacy of Euro 2012. Warsaw has built a new International Airport Modlin (40km North West of Warsaw, to open in May 2012) which will be the permanent base of Wizzair/Ryanair post tournament providing even cheaper access to future events held in the city. A new direct railway connection between Warsaw Chopin Airport and the city centre is to be opened in the second quarter of 2012, while new and modernised road and railway links plus better public transportation (120 of 186 modern trams will be supplied before the tournament) are fulfilling the ‘legacy’ promises of Euro 2012.
The new national stadium is open and ready to welcome Euro 2012 fans and has an eye on the future of Warsaw’s MICE industry. It is no wonder that bids for major tournaments are so hotly contested, as winners get a lasting legacy.