Ethnic minority football fans were urged today not to boycott Euro 2012 matches in Poland and Ukraine despite warnings of racism and violence.
A senior official from human rights watchdog the Council of Europe said images of far-right extremism were "unfair" on both countries.
Racism and violence were problems all over Europe, said former Serbian sports minister Snezana Samardzic-Markovic, now head of the Council of Europe's Directorate General of Democracy.
Poland and Ukraine were both working with the Council of Europe and Uefa to ensure the safety of spectators, she insisted in an interview on the Council of Europe website.
"Violence does not stem from sport alone but sport could be just the arena for some people to try to promote their non-sport interest," she acknowledged.
"Many countries including Poland and Ukraine - and especially them now - have taken preventive measures to improve safety and security of spectators of all kinds."
The Council of Europe supervises a Convention on violence at sports events which dates back to the Heysel tragedy in Belgium more than 25 years ago and was invited by the Euro 2012 hosts to scrutinise their safety procedures.
Ms Samardzic-Markovic said the council continued to provide assistance and training to countries arranging sporting events - and she cited former prime minister Margaret Thatcher as an example of getting to grips with the problem.
She added: "Images of far-right extremism (in Poland and Ukraine) give an unfair image of sport in general, and of these countries as well, because they took action: those governments invited the council and Uefa to help - meaning that they really want security and really want to protect all kinds of spectators, and especially tourists coming from abroad.
"Every country should tackle these problems the very moment they occur. Britain had this problem a long time ago and had a very determined prime minister at that time: Margaret Thatcher said 'the violence is going to stop', so I think every country as soon as they see such a problem should react, and both the Council of Europe and Uefa have anti-racism campaigns."
She compared the situation in the run-up to Euro 2012 to warnings about pollution ahead of the Beijing Olympics and about violence before the World Cup in South Africa.
"I was there (in Beijing) and it (pollution) was not that big a problem," she said. "The same with South Africa - many headlines about violence. I was there, it was okay in the end.
"So I don't want people to be discouraged from enjoying sport because sport has its values which have to be promoted, and Euro 2012 and any kind of sport competition exist there for people to enjoy. I don't want anyone to discourage people from going to enjoy and love sport."
She added: "Far-right extremism must not be allowed to prevent ethnic minority fans from supporting teams at the European football championships in Poland and Ukraine."
The remarks follow warnings from ex-England captain Sol Campbell that black and Asian fans should not travel to Poland and Ukraine for the tournament.
Ms Samardzic-Markovic insisted: "I wouldn't make any division between east and west, because unfortunately racism and violence exist all over our continent."