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Countdown begins for European Championships

Italian supporters were out in full force on Berlin's fan mile

(Keystone)

Preparations for the European football championships in 2008 are on schedule, according to Switzerland, which is co-hosting the event with Austria.

The sport minister, Samuel Schmid, said on Tuesday one of the main challenges was to learn the most important lessons from the World Cup in Germany, which ended on Sunday.

Schmid said he was impressed by Germany's organisation of the event, particularly concerning public transport and safety, which he experienced first-hand while attending Switzerland's crucial match against South Korea at the end of the group stage.

Schmid said he was able to join groups of celebrating fans from both countries without needing bodyguards. "That's only possible if wrongdoers are sidelined early," he said.

Matthias Remund, director of the Federal Sport Office, said a hooligan database approved by parliament would help Switzerland achieve this goal, as would better networking among police forces.

Remund said "fan miles" – areas surrounding the stadiums with giant screens – proved enormously popular and could cause an additional challenge for the Swiss police if they are introduced at Euro 2008.

Berlin's fan mile outdoor viewing area regularly attracted crowds of up to 900,000 during games.

Schmid said the government would decide in January whether the army would be called in to provide additional police support. But Remund cautioned that not everything could be planned or foreseen.

What price?

The security needed to guarantee safety at one of the world's largest sporting events comes at a price.

Only last month, parliament approved a SFr82.5 million ($67 million) funding package, with just under half earmarked for security. The initial cost estimate was only SFr3.5 million.

To encourage football fans to use public transport, officials revealed on Tuesday that ticket holders would be entitled to travel for free on all Swiss trains and buses for 36 hours.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Of the SFr82 million federal contribution, just under SFr36 million is earmarked for security.
Around SFr16 million is to be set aside for infrastructure, sports and cultural events.
Promotional campaigns will be funded to the tune of SFr20 million, while SFr10 million is set aside as reserve.

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