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UEFA has no plans to make Chernobyl donation

By John Sinnott, CNN
June 6, 2012 -- Updated 1213 GMT (2013 HKT)
The radiation effects of the Chernobyl explosion were about 400 times more potent than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
The radiation effects of the Chernobyl explosion were about 400 times more potent than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
  • The 1986 Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear accident in history
  • "There are no plans to make donations to the victims of the Chernobyl disaster," says UEFA
  • Chairman of the Chernobyl Children's Trust describes decision as paying 'lip-service' to Chernobyl victims
  • UEFA made a net profit of $312.5 million

(CNN) -- UEFA has decided not to make a charitable donation to the victims of the Chernobyl disaster as part of the social projects it has opted to support during Euro 2012, which is being co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland.

A botched reactor safety test at Chernobyl in Ukraine -- then part of the Soviet Union -- set off the worst nuclear accident in history, with the radiation effects of the 1986 explosion about 400 times more potent than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II, and nearly 14 times greater than the disaster last year at the Fukushima plant in Japan.

"There are no plans to make donations to the victims of the Chernobyl disaster," UEFA said in a statement given to CNN.

"However, children from Chernobyl disaster regions in Ukraine and Belarus have received an invitation, extended by UEFA President Michel Platini, to attend one of the Euro 2012 matches. There will be a total of 125 children attending the match in Kiev on June 19 between Sweden and France."

The chairman of the Chernobyl Children's Trust Simon Walsh described UEFA's decision as paying 'lip-service' to the victims of Chernobyl.

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"This is a hugely significant tournament and a unique opportunity to highlight the ongoing consequences of the Chernobyl disaster," said Walsh.

"Hundreds of thousands of children in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia are still affected today. Ironically, charities from the 16 nations participating in the Euros are working in the affected regions, trying their best to mitigate the consequences of Chernobyl with very limited resources.

"This could have been a golden opportunity to raise both awareness and funds for the 'Children of Chernobyl' while simultaneously giving much-needed credibility and kudos to UEFA and Michel Platini."

More than 200,000 people were evacuated following the disaster, never to return. A 2005 report by "The Chernobyl Forum" (the most comprehensive to date) estimated that more than five million remain in what have been termed "contaminated territories," and 250,000 live in "highly contaminated territories."

Figures released by UNICEF in 2010 showed that more than 20% of adolescent children in Belarus, which neighbors Ukraine, suffered from disabilities and chronic illness. Belarus absorbed 70% of Chernobyl's fallout.

"Twenty-six years after the Chernobyl catastrophe, hundreds of villages and towns remain radioactively contaminated and millions of people, many of whom are children, live in these areas," said Walsh.

"These children and their families have had to adapt and 'forget' about the radiation as they have no choice but to live where they are. Popular pastimes like collecting berries and mushrooms and walking in the forest are forbidden in contaminated areas but as time progresses the radiation signs are often ignored."

Walsh added: "The government is now systematically declassifying villages and towns as contaminated," added the Chernobyl Children's Trust chairman.

"This is not based on any scientific evidence and entire towns and villages that may well still be radioactively contaminated are now being classified as 'clean' and 'safe' to live in.

"This is purely economical as families living in the 'zones' are entitled to certain 'privileges' -- a free holiday in a different part of the country for children, once a year and a meager allowance for the family."

UEFA, which made a net profit of $312.5 million during Euro 2008, is to make a contribution of $3.75 million to its RESPECT campaign -- RESPECT Diversity, RESPECT Fan Culture, RESPECT Inclusion and RESPECT your Health.

The RESPECT Diversity project is being run by Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE). Two FARE international monitors will attend each match during Euro 2012 to identify racist behavior and far-right banners.

Former England defender Sol Campbell has warned fans not to travel to Poland or Ukraine following a BBC documentary accusing football fans from the two countries of racism and also questioned why both nations were awarded the tournament in the first place.

UEFA says the profits for the 2008 tournament were used to finance all its youth and women's competitions until 2012, its complete refereeing and coaching programs and some of its administrative costs.

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