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Rolling Stones rock into Switzerland

Ron Wood (behind) and Mick Jagger were eagerly awaited in Dübendorf

(Keystone)

A Rolling Stones concert at a military airfield in Dübendorf near Zurich was the biggest of its kind ever seen in the country.

The fact that it took place on military ground was down to Swiss Defence Minister Samuel Schmid, who personally intervened to ensure the veteran group had enough space to rock'n'roll.

The concert was part of the Stones' Bigger Bang world tour and was the 11th they have played so far.

Schmid offered the airfield – the first time such an offer has been made to a rock group – because of a lack of a big enough site to house all the fans.

The minister was also present at the concert and met 82 apprentices from his ministry who were invited to the show by Good News, the organiser of the event.

In all, officials said around 65,000 attended the concert, which had a budget of SFr10 million ($8.2 million). For the band, Dübendorf was one of the smaller stopovers on their tour – in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil they attracted 1-2 million people.

Huge event

But for Switzerland it was a huge event, the equivalent of two evenings at Paléo, the largest of the Swiss music festivals.

"This will be the biggest concert ever seen in this country," Dano Tamasy, spokesman for Good News, told swissinfo before the concert.

A Rolling Stones tour is an enormous undertaking. In all, 80 trucks are needed to transport 1,560 tons of material and 350 people are needed to set up the 62 by 27 metre-stage and the two metallic structures as tall as three-storey buildings on each side of it. A giant screen measuring 18 by 13 metres was also erected.

The Dübendorf site also needed some work before it was ready to host the legendary group. This included putting in rows of seats, 50 food stands and 400 toilets. Counting infrastructure outside the airfield, building work took three weeks.

Added to this were the stars' special requests. An aircraft hangar was converted into a living space for the group, complete with carpet, furniture and dressing rooms.

Warm up track

A 50-metre-long pre-concert warm up track was built for Mick Jagger and a billiard table was found for Ron Wood and Keith Richards, for whom a smoking ban in the hangar was also temporarily lifted.

And as the ageing rockers are not as sprightly as they were 30 years ago, a limousine took them to the stage.

VIP suites were also built around the stage which cost SFr1,500 each, "of which SFr600 goes to charity," said Tamasy.

The veterans delighted the crowd with such hits as "Honky Tonk Woman, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and, of course, "Satisfaction".

Zurich police said there were no incidents.

Before their last world tour in 2002 Richards said it would be the Rolling Stones' last. But there has been no word yet on whether they will call it a day this time.

In any case, they still attract thousands to their concerts, so it could be that, true rockers that they are, the group will be on stage until the very last.

swissinfo

Key facts

Doors opened at Dübendorf airfield at midday on Saturday. The concert started just before 2100.
Warm up acts included Swiss band the Lovebugs and British band Kasabian.
60 extra special trains were announced which were free for those with concert tickets.
Tickets for the event cost SFr160-300.

end of infobox

In brief

According to Billboard magazine, the Rolling Stones made more touring in the first half of 2006 than any other band - $147.3 million (SFr180 million).

The band was forced to postpone 15 tour dates earlier this year after guitarist Keith Richards underwent head surgery after a fall in New Zealand.

The last big concert by the Stones was in Zurich in 2003 and attracted around 50,000 people.

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