SPORTS

Greece and Turkey eliminated in initial vote to stage Euro 2012

SAN ANTON, Malta – Greece and Turkey were eliminated from the running to host soccer’s 2012 European Championships yesterday. UEFA’s executive committee selected Italy plus joint bids by Croatia and Hungary, and Poland and Ukraine to enter the final vote on December 8, 2006 in Nyon, Switzerland. Italy got 11 votes, Croatia-Hungary nine and Poland-Ukraine seven. Turkey had six and Greece two. «This is now an open competition,» UEFA chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson said. «We and the three bidders have a huge job ahead of us. It’s a totally open race.» Updated bid dossiers are due in May and site visits will be made next September. Officials may have been influenced by Greece’s problems getting ready for last year’s Athens Olympics. Turkey struggled when it hosted last season’s Champions League final in Istanbul’s new Ataturk stadium, which is amid sprawling shantytowns far from downtown and reachable only by traffic-clogged highways. With Croatia-Hungary and Poland-Ukraine in the final round, the tournament may return to eastern Europe for the first time since 1976. «They are now catching up with the western part, so it makes it possible to organize this kind of big event,» Olsson said of eastern Europe. «We are now favorites, but we need to gather our strengths to successfully complete our candidature,» said Vlatko Markovic, head of Croatia’s soccer federation. However, Markovic said that «there is no need for euphoria yet» because Croatia needs to overcome a recent spate of crowd violence. Italy – which hosted the 1990 World Cup – also has concerns over violence and security problems that mar games. Poland-Ukraine officials hinted recently that they were only taking part to gain experience ahead of a serious bid for the 2016 tournament. But Adam Olkowicz, a member of the Poland-Ukraine organizing committee, said Tuesday that the present bid was worthy. «We have gotten over the first barrier,» Olkowicz told Poland’s TVN24 television. «In the six and a half years that we have to the championships, we can build the infrastructure, expand the infrastructure, and take care of security.» (AP)