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Romania struggles to save face ahead of Euro 2020

With less than two years until the start of the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship, Romania struggles to finish its stadiums by kick-off time. And with roughly 200,000 fans flooding the capital city to cheer for their teams, the question lingers whether the city's transport infrastructure can meet minimum safety criteria. The Diplomat takes the pulse of the current state of play.

2018-10-08 09:53:31 - From the Print Edition

Romania, alongside 12 other nations, will host the 2020 European Football Championship. Four matches will take place in the National Arena, but other four stadiums in the city - namely Steaua (Ghencea), Dinamo (Stefan cel Mare), Rapid (Giulesti) and Arcul de Triumf - must be ready to be used for team trainings.

Out of these four stadiums, three (Steaua, Rapid and Dinamo) are slated for a complete overhaul, while Arcul de Triumf is meant to be expanded.

Demolition works have already started on the Steaua stadium in Ghencea, which is meant to be completed by July 2020. The Euro 2020 kicks off on 12 June 2020. Even though the projects are already delayed, national authorities assure the construction on all four stadiums will be completed on schedule.
Football fanatics nationwide pray to God that Romania will be able to keep its promise, at least this time around.

What if the stadiums aren't ready?

Despite current delays in building new and improved training grounds, Romania faces no consequences or financial penalties from UEFA, says Razvan Mitroi, Euro 2020 communication manager at the Romanian Football Federation (FRF).

"There is no such thing as penalties for not getting these stadiums ready for Euro 2020," he tells The Diplomat. "The Ghencea, Giulesti, Stefan cel Mare and Arcul de Triumf stadiums are nominated exclusively as training facilities for the participating teams. It was the Romanian Government's commitment to modernize or rebuild these stadiums."

Should construction works on the four training facilities not meet the completion deadline, FRF has as a back-up plan the stadiums in Mogosoaia, Giurgiu, Voluntari, and Ploiesti. "Official games will be played only at National Arena, which already meets the European Championship standards," says Mitroi. Romania's biggest stadium will host four matches – three in the group stage (14, 18 and 22 June) and one in the round of 16 (29 June 2020). If it qualifies, the Romanian national team will play at least two matches in Bucharest.

The National Investment Company (CNI), which finances the four-stadiums project, claims Ghencea, Giulesti and Arcul de Triumf are following the established schedule with enough funds to put them into operation by the deadline of 31 March 2020, even though their construction is yet to be started. The fourth stadium, Dinamo, is also part of Euro 2020 project and follows a separate path to recover its current constructions delays, officials say.

This stadium may not be completed in time for Euro 2020, says Romania's Minister of Development, Paul Stanescu.

"It is possible that the Dinamo stadium may not be ready by the time the championship starts, but we have alternatives in Ploiesti, Giurgiu, Voluntari and Mogosoaia. It is important to finish them all, even after the championship," Stanescu explains.

Alongside the Ghencea stadium, on which works have already started, the Minister added that works on Arcul de Triumf would start in June [as we went to press there was no movement of this front], while the Giulesti Stadium will be reconstructed starting July this year [again, nothing has so far happened in this respect].

As sport in Romania is at a turning point, officials say these football stadiums represent an important objective of this Government and a huge step forward for the country.

The first UEFA official delegation will arrive in Bucharest in July 2019 for a first inspection.
"UEFA is monitoring the situation and no sanctions are envisaged [if the four stadiums are not ready]," UEFA officials tell The Diplomat. "The project is progressing within schedule."
This is a good opportunity for Romania to improve its sports infrastructure, but state officials don't seem to be bothered that any wrong step can ruin the country's image.

"I think we now have the experience to build stadiums and hope to keep our word regarding the UEFA agreement," Stanescu was quoted as saying. "It is important that the four stadiums are completed. Of course, it would be good to finish them in time but if not, we will find solutions."
CNI took responsibility for the construction and completion of all four arenas. In early March, the Government approved 92 million Euro worth of investments for modernising two stadiums in Bucharest, namely the Steaua football stadium and Arcul de Triumf rugby stadium.
The Steaua stadium will undergo a 65 million Euro revamping process. It will have a capacity of 30,500 seats, four locker rooms, 24 rooms for accommodating players, a museum, retail spaces and a pitch-view restaurant. The project should be finalized in 25 months after signing the contract. When it comes to the Arcul de Triumf national rugby stadium, the stadium is set to have 8,100 seats and its amenities will also be revamped. The costs amount to some 27 million Euro. The Giulesti arena is to have a 14,500-seat capacity after an investment of around 26 million Euro. As for the Dinamo stadium in Stefan cel Mare, on 18 July CNI announced the signing of the contract for pre-feasibility and feasibility studies.

Infrastructure – the same old problem

Mainstream TV station ProTV ran an experiment. Its reporters tried all three available options for a traveller to reach the Henri Coanda International Airport in Otopeni from Gara de Nord, the main railway station that services the city. As a metro line to the airport is, at the moment, the stuff of dreams, a traveller can opt to use the train, the bus, or their own personal car.

With the state of train carriages owned and operated by the National Railway Company (CFR) abusing noses and providing sauna-like conditions for any adventurer aware of the headlines in recent months, a trip to the airport from the railway station takes 40 minutes, including the bus transfer from the small train drop-off station in Balotesti.

The second option was Bus 780, which links Gara de Nord to Henri Coanda Airport. At 46 minutes, the bus is the slowest option, as it runs only once every hour and stops a great many times on the route.
The last and most efficient way to reach the airport is a personal car, which gets to the Departures Terminal at Otopeni in just 30 minutes, in busy, end-of-the-week Friday traffic.
However, one has to ask: how many football fanatics would be able to drive their own car?
There have been years of strategies and debates with regards to a quicker, direct link between Bucharest's main train station and its main airport, yet still no government has been able to complete anything concrete.

It's back to the drawing board for infrastructure strategists; however, no matter the will, a direct link to the airport will not be ready in time for the European Football Championships in 2020. CFR, the national railway company, announced a project in the autumn of 2016, with Sorin Buse - then Transport Minister - pledging completion by 2018. Today, as no rail has still been nailed down, CFR is more realistic and instead sends travellers to alternative routes.

The alternative, according to CFR, is the introduction of special busses that would take tourists to the train station in Otopeni. This station also needs to be modernised, though, and more investments are needed for a special road to connect the train station to the airport, and subsequently the terminal. Asked if the authorities will completely drop the idea of a direct railway line between Bucharest's main train station and the Otopeni airport, the CFR general manager said this is not the case, but that the line would not be ready before 2022. The project of the train line involves the construction of two kilometres of new track, an underground passage crossing the DN1 national road, and a railway station at the airport.

2020 is also the most recent deadline announced for the metro line connecting Bucharest to the Otopeni airport. Former Transport Minister Felix Stroe said in December last year that this new line would certainly be completed by 2020, when Romania will host matches of the European Football Championship. However, the deadline is very tight, as the Government hasn't yet selected a contractor for this project. The construction work should start in the second half of 2018 and be completed in two years, which means that the metro line may not be ready by the start of Euro 2020.
The European Commission (EC) has asked for clarifications about the planned metro line that is to link Bucharest to the Otopeni airport (Line 6), namely about the route chosen for this line and the cost. The EC would want to know more about why the new line doesn't start from Piata Victoriei but from the existing 1 Mai station, which accounts for a longer route.

Another aspect referred to by the European Commission is the underestimation of the investment for the construction of this metro line to Otopeni, but also the overestimation of passenger traffic. Local authorities estimated that the new line would require an investment of some 1.3 billion Euro (VAT included), and that it would ensure the transport capacity of 50,000 passengers per hour in each direction. The metro Line 6 will have 14.2 kilometres and 12 stations.

Safety and confort for football fans – City Hall's priority

According to UEFA′s forecast following the latest World Cups and European Championships, fans will come to Bucharest by airplanes (Otopeni and Baneasa airports), trains, or cars.
The priority for the Bucharest City Hall is that all football fans arriving in Bucharest will travel in comfort and safety conditions to hotels, fan-zones, and stadiums.

"The Mobility Plan, issued by the Bucharest City Hall, provides concrete measures for traffic management, public transport and city bus transfers for all passengers arriving at the two mentioned airports," City Hall representatives tell The Diplomat. "One of the advantages for us is low traffic (two matches on Monday and one on Sunday) on the days before the matches when most fans are expected to arrive in Bucharest. The Mobility Plan implies traffic restrictions only for the fan-walk, which will start from the Constitutiei Square, as well as on the streets around the National Arena that will be restricted on match days."

The City Hall will organize a fan-zone in Constitutiei Square, in partnership with UEFA, and other meeting points in the Old City of Bucharest.

What about the money?

When UEFA chose Romania as one of the host nations for the Euro 2020, the football governing body conditioned the move by some fiscal incentives the local government should give all those involved.
Subsequently, the Romanian Parliament decided that foreign companies and institutions that will be involved in organizing the Euro 2020 football championship matches in Bucharest won't pay income tax. Moreover, advertising related to the tournament will also be tax-free. The law is already in place.
The Government estimates foreign tourists will spend around 100 million Euro in Romania during this event.

The Diplomat asked whether Romania would get any financial aid from the UEFA for its hosting duties. UEFA officials declined to comment and diverted the question towards the local governing body. Razvan Mitroi, the Euro 2020 communication manager at FRF said: "Taking your request into consideration, we inform you that the Romanian Football Federation is a private legal entity and there is no legal basis on which we could release the information you asked for."

A participating nation in the Euro 2020 Football Championship could, however, fill its treasure chests.
There is a participation fee of 9.25 million Euro that each qualified nation is automatically allotted. A win in the group stage is awarded 1.5 million Euro, while a draw accounts for a 750,000 Euro payout. Going further, the victor of the Round of 16 matches gets two million Euro, a sum which increases to 3.25 million Euro if a team wins the quarter-final fixture. Semi-final winners earn five million Euro, while the runner-up team gets seven million Euro.
The laurels go to the victor, with the winner of the 2020 European Championships bagging a hefty ten million Euro, which means that the 2020 European Football Champion takes home a total of 34 million Euro.

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