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Swiss look forward to Euro 2008 boost


Switzerland is expecting an economic and emotional lift when it plays co-host to the cream of Europe's international football teams in a year's time.

The Euro 2008 championship is the first time a major football tournament has taken place on Swiss soil since the World Cup in 1954. It kicks off in both Switzerland and Austria next June.

Swiss Football Association President Ralph Zloczower has fond memories of the World Cup more than 50 years ago, but believes Euro 2008 will prove an even bigger hit.

“The whole world came to Switzerland and in those days it was unusual to travel by plane to anywhere in the world. For this reason it was extraordinary, but it was not such a big event as the European Championships are today,” he told swissinfo.

The success of the Swiss national team in reaching the World Cup quarter-finals in Germany last year provoked an outpouring of jubilation and national pride.

Naked displays of emotion at football success were not common in 1954. But Zloczower believes such patriotic feelings will be stirred up again providing the team – and the sun – shine as brightly as then.

“Fifty years ago, just after World War II, people were much calmer and very different from today,” he said.

“I expect to see a lot of emotion. But for Euro 2008 to be a real success we need the weather to be good and our own national team must perform well for the people.”

Prayers answered

The players appeared to have answered Zloczower’s prayers with a respectable 1-1 draw against Argentina earlier this month, ending a poor run of results and smoothing the turbulence of seeing captain Johann Vogel dropped.

“It was natural that after the [2006] World Cup we could not perform at the same level. That is impossible for such a small footballing nation,” Zloczower said. “But after this period of difficulty we have found our way back on track.”

Euro 2008 is also expected to bring an economic windfall with expected revenues of SFr1.5 billion ($1.23 billion) and the creation of around 6,000 new jobs.

The anticipated 5.4 million visitors would also boost the tourist industry, with the construction, food, media and advertising sectors also helping themselves to a slice of the cake.

A net profit of SFr860 million should amply cover the costs of co-hosting the tournament. The figures were recently revised upwards by the Federal Sports Office after taking into account the impact of the big screens that proved such a hit in Germany last year.

Dispel stereotypes

Above all, the tournament will showcase Switzerland to the rest of the world, a point picked up by Sport Minister Samuel Schmid last month.

In addition to highlighting the traditional Swiss qualities of punctuality, reliability, cleanliness and correctness, Euro 2008 could also dispel some negative stereotypes.

“If you look abroad, most of the time people think Switzerland is a boring country and that the people are also a little bit boring. We want to show that when you come here you can party, and the people are open and helpful,” Schmid said.

Zloczower agrees that Switzerland being in the international spotlight next year presents many opportunities.

“There will be a huge number of people visiting Switzerland next year so we must organise the event very well. I am sure that we will be ready,” he said. “I want it to be remembered as a friendly, easy tournament full of pleasure.”

swissinfo, Matthew Allen

Switzerland was chosen to host the 1954 World Cup in the 50th anniversary year of football’s governing body Fifa, which has its headquarters in Zurich.

The national football team reached the quarter-final stage of the tournament that was eventually won by West Germany after a final against Hungary, hosted in Bern.

Switzerland first qualified for the European championships in 1996. They failed to progress from the opening group stage on that occasion and during their only other appearance in 2004.

The host side has reached at least the semi-final stage in 11 of the 12 European championships played to date. Spain, Italy and France have all won the tournament as hosts, Portugal were losing finalists in 2004, while only Belgium have failed to qualify from the first stage on home turf.

15 of the 31 Euro 2008 matches will be played in Switzerland and 16 in Austria.
Switzerland will play the opening match of the tournament at Basel’s St Jakob’s Park on June 7, 2008.
The final will be in Vienna on June 29.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR