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Euro 2008 goals on target

(Keystone)

Preparations for the 2008 European football championships are making good progress, according to Switzerland, which is co-hosting the event with Austria.

At a news conference in Bern on Monday, the Swiss organisers presented a "positive" first report on the planning of Euro 2008, along with a first glimpse of a national marketing campaign.

"Football fever will spread throughout Switzerland," Matthias Remund, director of the Federal Sport Office, told journalists.

Between one million and 3.2 million visitors are expected during the three-week tournament.

According to the organisers, four Euro 2008 projects are currently up and running in Switzerland, focusing on security, infrastructure and transport, economic promotion and other special projects.

A unified marketing campaign, enabling Switzerland to profile itself at the international level alongside the tournament, is also well advanced, incorporating a special promotional slogan: "Switzerland. Discover the plus".

"It's about turning the stadium floodlights away from the pitch and focusing them on the rest of the country," said Jürg Schmid, head of Switzerland Tourism.

A big plus

A three-dimensional "plus" sign, built out of five red-and-white industrial containers, will tour Europe in the run-up to the competition, stopping off in the seven biggest European capitals to promote Switzerland. The Swiss will get their first chance to see it for themselves in Lucerne on December 2, 2007, during the draw for the Euro 2008 finals.

While joking that Switzerland is the only country with a plus sign in its logo, Schmid stressed that the campaign would help portray the country as the ideal place to work, study and play.

"The country should be presented in a unified campaign as a beautiful, global, perfect place," he added.

To whet the public's football appetite, a wide range of events and initiatives is being planned prior to the start of the tournament in June 2008, including touring exhibitions, road shows and schools projects.

Anyone involved in Euro 2008 in direct contact with the public, especially those in the hotel, tourism or restaurant businesses, will receive special training on how to provide the best possible welcome to the hordes of football fans expected to descend on Switzerland.

Military support

In a parallel development, parliament started discussions on Monday on plans to deploy up to 15,000 soldiers to provide security during the tournament.

The soldiers would be used mainly to support the operations of civilian authorities in Switzerland's four Euro 2008 venues: the capital Bern, Basel, Geneva and Zurich.

The army would protect buildings and secure Swiss air space but would not be used to confront violent football fans. If needed, unmanned drones and Super Puma helicopters with cameras would also be used to monitor match venues.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The European football championships take place in Switzerland and Austria from June 7-29, 2008.

Fifteen matches take place in Switzerland: in Basel, Bern, Geneva and Zurich.

Switzerland and Austria officially kicked off their joint collaboration with a friendly match between the two national sides in Innsbruck in September 2006.

The second meeting between both organising committees is due to take place in Zurich next February.

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Key facts

SFr182 million ($147 million) of Swiss public funds has been earmarked so far for Euro 2008.
The largest single amount – SFr64.4 million – will be spent on security.
SFr18 million is going to upgrade stadium infrastructure in the four host cities: Basel, Zurich, Bern and Geneva.
A further SFr24.7 million will be used for marketing.
The tournament is expected to bring in SFr500 million to Switzerland.

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