Switzerland and Austria are to host the European football championships in 2008.This content was published on December 12, 2002 - 17:41
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 challenges from Hungary, and from 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 one of the favourites because eastern Europe has never hosted the championships before, was eliminated early in the voting.
The hopes of Scotland and Ireland, and of the four-nation consortium of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, were dashed in later rounds.
Announcing the winner after a series of delays and dozens of conflicting rumours, Uefa president Lennart Johansson paid tribute to all the bidders.
"The road to this decision was a long one," he said, "because there were so many excellent bids."
Victory for Switzerland and Austria 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.
"We are very grateful for the confidence Uefa has shown in us," said Ralph Zloczower, president of the Swiss football association.
Boost for Swiss football
Thomas Helbling, project manager for the Austrian-Swiss bid, could not hide his delight and relief on hearing the news that it had been successful.
"We knew the political challenge from Greece and Turkey was a strong one," he said, "but we always believed we had the right combination for a successful bid."
The right to host the championships will be a major boost for the sport in Switzerland, which is not regarded as a big footballing nation.
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.
As a host country, the Swiss national team is guaranteed automatic qualification for Euro 2008.
The cost of staging the tournament is likely to cost at least €100 million (SFr148 million), but the event will also bring in plenty of cash for 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.
The championships are expected to attract over a million visitors to Switzerland and Austria.
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.
Switzerland's sports minister, Samuel Schmid, was also delighted at the news of the successful bid.
"We've waited for this moment for a long time," he said. "It is a testament to the hard work and close cooperation of the football associations of Switzerland and Austria."
Schmid added that he hoped hosting Euro 2008 would heal some of the wounds left following the failure of Sion 2006.
The first match will be played on June 7 2008 in Bern's Wankdorf stadium, site of the 1954 World Cup final between Hungary and Germany.
The Euro 2008 final will be played in Vienna's Ernst Happel stadium on June 29.
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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