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Diplomats receive ice hockey welcome

The Swiss government has welcomed the start of the country's biggest sporting event of 2009, the World Ice Hockey Championship, with a reception for diplomats.

Representatives of the 15 other competing countries gathered at the cabinet’s official residence in Kehrsatz near Bern on Friday, together with the Swiss sport and foreign ministers.

Officials from host cities, Swiss cantons and the world of ice hockey also attended.

The championship runs until May 10 in the capital Bern and the town of Kloten, outside Zurich. An estimated 700 million people from 100 countries are expected to tune in to watch the tournament, which is being broadcast by 70 television channels worldwide.

Sports Minister Ueli Maurer said he was delighted that Switzerland was the host and expressed a hope that the economy would also benefit from the tournament.

The president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, René Fasel of Switzerland, said he hoped the tournament would provide some big moments on the ice for fans.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR