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Euro 2008 economic boost yet to materialise


Bad weather and the Swiss team's elimination have dampened business expectations in the four Swiss host cities halfway through the Euro 2008 tournament.

A report last year predicted a SFr1.5 billion ($1.44 billion) revenue boost from the championships, co-hosted by Switzerland and Austria, but many firms hoping to cash in on the football fever have experienced disappointing results.

The Fan Mile in Zurich has earned the unwelcome “yawn mile” tag with food and drinks vendors, who paid up to SFr15,000 for a pitch, struggling to make a profit on their outlay.

The Fan Zone has so far attracted 450,000 visitors who have spent more than SFr3 million on catering while watching the action on a big screen. But persistent rainfall has discouraged these fans from revelling – or drowning their sorrows – in the neighbouring lakeside area.

Shops in the Fan Mile have also complained bitterly about traffic restrictions that have closed off roads in the locality.

Zurich city mayor Elmer Ledergerber showed little sympathy for the struggling enterprises. “They must bear the risk of bad weather alone,” he said.

Some vendors in Geneva, who have paid up to SFr36,000 for a stall, have threatened to take local organising authorities to court after suffering similar problems. The city centre Fan Zone had attracted 335,000 people by the beginning of the week, but another site at Le Bout du Monde had only seen 11,500 visitors.

Euro 2008 organisers in Geneva have been so delighted with the efficient running of the host city’s matches that they claimed they could stage an Olympic Games. But hotels and restaurants are not quite so ecstatic.

Expectations too high

“As with every big sporting event the European Championships have been a bad time for the large majority of café owners. Their establishments are deserted during the matches,” Laurent Terlinchamp, secretary of Geneva’s society of café owners, restaurateurs and hoteliers, told swissinfo.

Terlinchamp added that only the hotels that actively attracted fans with match screenings saw a profit. Other hotels also gained from visiting fans, but this was offset by the loss of regular customers who were put off from coming because of the tournament, he said.

Basel also suffered from the poor weather, despite hosting the Swiss national team during the group stage of the tournament. The city centre Fan Zone saw a disappointing 250,000 fans and poor catering sales.

A temporary stadium erected in the nearby town of Liestal has seen just 16,000 visitors out of a possible 65,000 and its campsite has remained practically empty throughout the tournament.

Spokesman Simon Dürrenberger told swissinfo that many enterprises had suffered the backlash of having unrealistic expectations following the Fan Zone success of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Long-term effect

Dürrenberger was disappointed with Swiss fans who stayed at home rather than brave the elements. “I hope the fans from Germany and Holland coming here for the quarterfinals will show the Swiss how to have a party,” he said.

Dutch fans have been the real bright spot of the tournament in Switzerland, having painted Bern orange during the group stages. They have also helped boost beer sales, which have been flat in other host cities.

“Turnover for businesses has been good, but nothing extraordinary. The main winners have been the restaurant and catering sectors,” Bern trade association spokesman Bernhard Bögli told swissinfo. “The economic impact will be more long-term because visitors will have a good impression of Bern and will come back.”

One piece of good news is that the weather in Switzerland is forecast to improve substantially for the next few days.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen

Switzerland is co-hosting the Euro 2008 football championships along with Austria from June 7-29.

Four Swiss cities – Zurich, Basel, Geneva and Bern – hosted matches during the group stage of the tournament. Switzerland were eliminated after losing their first two matches.

Basel will now host two quarterfinals and one semifinal. Portugal play Germany in the St Jacob’s Park stadium on June 19 while the Netherlands take on Russia on June 21.

The Swiss semifinal is scheduled for June 25. The Euro 2008 final will take place in Vienna on June 29.

Up to 5.4 million football fans are expected to follow the tournament in Switzerland, including 1.4 million from abroad.

Uefa expects to make SFr1.1 billion profit from the event while a Swiss study said Euro 2008 could boost the economy by SFr1.5 billion.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR