Six months before the European football championships kick off, Switzerland is making sure its guests will enjoy an unforgettable stay.This content was published on January 22, 2008 - 15:28
The Swiss, co-hosting the tournament with neighbouring Austria, on Wednesday launched their "hospitality scheme", which aims to teach more than 50,000 people how to be the perfect host.
"If our guests feel welcome and looked after, and if they can feel that we are happy that they are here, then that will have a positive effect on the tournament's atmosphere," said Benedikt Weibel, the government's Euro 2008 representative, at the launch of the initiative in Zurich.
"Euro 2008 offers the unique chance for Switzerland to present itself as a hospitable and open country."
The 50,000 people to be trained by professionals include airport and customs officials, bar, restaurant and shop assistants, train staff, police officers and soldiers.
Switzerland Tourism is working with 14 partners to ensure that the courses, which should result in friendly, cosmopolitan and service-oriented behaviour, are a success.
The training will begin on January 23 and is set to continue right up to the first whistle on June 7, when the Swiss take on the Czechs in Basel.
Also on Wednesday an "anticipation campaign" involving clips to be shown on television and in cinemas was launched in the four Swiss host cities – Basel, Zurich, Geneva and Bern – with the aim of whetting the Swiss public's appetite.
European football fans will get a taste of Switzerland even before they arrive. The Icon, a giant three-dimensional Swiss cross made up of five red-white shipping containers, will go on tour in March.
The Icon is part of the national promotion campaign developed by Switzerland Tourism, "Switzerland. Discover the Plus", which is to culminate just before the start of the tournament.
The idea behind the slogan is that the Swiss cross is also a plus sign that symbolises Switzerland's strengths. These will be presented in major European cities during a road show lasting several months.
The themes include Switzerland as a place to do business for international companies, the high standard of Swiss education and research institutions and the beauty and variety of the Alps.
The Icon documents Switzerland's cultural and linguistic diversity – and also, importantly, its football skills.
swissinfo with agencies
Co-hosts Switzerland and Austria qualified automatically for the tournament, which takes place from June 7-29, 2008.
The 31 games will be played in four cities in Switzerland (Basel, Bern, Geneva and Zurich) and four cities in Austria (Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Vienna). The final will be held in Vienna on June 29. Switzerland will play its three qualifying matches in Basel.
The finals will be broadcast in 170 countries and are expected to be watched by some eight billion TV viewers.
Up to 5.4 million football fans are expected to follow the tournament in Switzerland, including 1.4 million from abroad.
European football's governing body, Uefa, says it has received eight million requests for the 1.05 million tickets that have gone on sale.
According to a study published on Sunday by the credit card MasterCard, the tournament will generate more than €1.4 billion (SFr2.3 billion) for the European economy.
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