Switzerland and Austria are to host the European football championships in 2008.This content was published on December 12, 2002 - 14:32
The announcement came after a secret ballot on Thursday in the Swiss town of Nyon, home of European football's governing body, Uefa.
The Austrian-Swiss bid beat off surprise contenders Greece and Turkey, who made it into the final ballot, despite originally being considered as rank outsiders to host the championships.
Russia, which some observers regarded as a favourite because eastern Europe has never hosted the championships before, was eliminated in the first round of voting.
The hopes of Scotland and Ireland, and of the four-nation consortium of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, were dashed in the final rounds of the ballot.
The Austrian-Swiss victory is being seen as a vindication of the two countries' claims that they had the best football facilities and the best infrastructure to host the event.
The right to host the championships will also be a major boost for football in Switzerland. The Swiss are not normally regarded as big fans of the sport.
But the recent success of FC Basel, which became the first-ever Swiss team to qualify for the second round of the European Champions League, ignited football fever in Switzerland.
And Basel's matches against Liverpool and Manchester United gave the Swiss an important chance to show off the new St Jakobs Park stadium, and to prove that they could stage big international matches safely.
After years on the international sidelines, Switzerland has also recently celebrated notable successes at junior, senior and club level.
Earlier this year, the country's under-17 side won their version of the European championship to earn the Swiss their first-ever title at international level.
Just days later the under-21s made it to the European semi-finals after qualifying for the tournament (and staging it) for the first time in history.
The championships are certain to bring plenty of money to both host countries.
The 2000 competition in Holland and Belgium earned the host countries around €18 million (SFr26.5 million), while the 1996 event in England brought in around €30 million.
The alpine tourist industry is also optimistic that the event will be good for business.
Tourism officials expect many families to combine a visit to Euro 2008 matches with holidays in Austria and Switzerland.
Defeat would have been painful
Members of the Swiss bidding team will be extremely relieved that their bid has been successful. Many of them were involved in the unsuccessful campaign to bring the 2006 Winter Olympics to Sion.
The surprise defeat was a crushing disappointment, and another such blow would have been extremely difficult to take.
Now, however, football officials in both Switzerland and Austria can congratulate themselves on the success of their bid, which observers regarded as extremely professional and well prepared.
And Swiss and Austrian football fans can look forward to a long hot summer of football, although they will still have to wait almost six years to enjoy it.
Seven bid teams from 14 countries competed to host the tournament.
Switzerland and Austria are earmarking SFr170 million for the organisational costs, but any final deficit would be covered by Uefa.
Matches will be staged in Bern, Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Vienna, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Innsbruck.
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