The first of the seven teams staying in Switzerland for the 2008 European football championships have set up camp in their luxury surroundings.This content was published on May 30, 2008 - 12:42
Hotel managers, tourism directors and fans are delighted. But not everyone is happy with the tight security and other VIP measures laid on for superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Thierry Henry.
"These measures are rather exaggerated. We're not expecting heads of state for an international conference, but if it's for the good of the sport and so that the players can spend peaceful nights, then why not," said Neuchâtel resident Georges Prébandier with a wry smile.
He was referring to the security put in place for the Portuguese team, which has booked all 65 rooms of Neuchâtel's five-star Beau-Rivage lakeside hotel near the centre of town in June.
To ensure the players' peace and calm, the hotel will be surrounded by a heavily guarded two-metre fence and the popular lake path and nearby park will be out-of-bounds to the public. Traffic will be banned from the centre of town at night, a police boat will guard the lake 24 hours a day and supporters will be forbidden from hooting their horns.
"This will increase the level of security and provide the team with a better quality of welcome so they don't have to suffer the sound of car horns after the matches," said Neuchâtel police commander Jean-Louis Français.
Canton Neuchâtel is home to 11,000 residents of Portuguese origin.
At the Mirador Kempinski hotel in the village of Mont-Pèlerin high above Lake Geneva, Thierry Henry and Franck Ribéry will be able to admire the spectacular views of the French Alps as they pedal away on their exercise bikes.
Some 80 hotel staff will look after "Les Bleus", who have exclusive use of the Mirador, one of Switzerland's most luxurious hotels. Prices per night for the 74 rooms range from SFr385 ($368) up to SFr5,600 for a Royal Suite.
Some 200-300 journalists are expected to cover the French team during the tournament, which "gives us an opportunity to get ourselves known and to promote the region", hotel manager Eric Favre told 24Heures newspaper.
But the prospect of the arrival of the French stars in the sleepy village, followed by hordes of journalists and fans, has divided local opinion.
The hotel will remain a well-guarded fortress during the tournament and small businesses based at the Kempinski have had to shut up shop for the month.
"Heads of state, singers and athletes have already visited the Mirador but they never demanded such measures," Marlène, who runs the village shop, told the newspaper.
As if to outdo their hosts, coach Raymond Domenech and his team have agreed a deal with Swiss Federal Railways to use three special carriages previously used by the Pope to travel in VIP style to the matches.
Elsewhere in the French-speaking region, the Dutch team and their 50-person entourage will be staying in one wing of the 169-room Beau-Rivage Palace hotel in Lausanne, their traditional Swiss stop-off.
Security will be more low-key than in other locations, as their first round games are in the capital, Bern, but everything has to be perfect for the arrival of the Dutch.
Their training pitch at the La Pontaise Stadium has had to be completely re-done, with a Dutch official threatening to take a private jet to fly over to check on progress to ensure the turf is just right, according to local sources.
The Turkish team will occupy 60 rooms of the five-star La Réserve hotel just outside Geneva; the rest of the 102-room hotel on the shores of Lake Geneva will be open to guests. But security will be reinforced – the national team is concerned about possible terrorist attacks, according to the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet.
The Swiss squad has been acclimatising at the Panorama Resort & Spa in Feusisberg near Lake Zurich, training in Lugano and warming up with a 2-0 friendly win over Slovakia.
But the Swiss have been particularly protected during training and at the hotel, "a trend that started during the 2006 World Cup in Germany", journalist Patrick Délétroz told swissinfo.
Further south, all is quiet in Lugano and Ascona, ahead of the arrivals of the Swedish and German squads, who will both play their first round matches in Austria. But an agreement between Lugano and the Swedish team to pay their flights to and from Austria and the easing of night flight restrictions for both squads have caused local turbulence.
Lugano missed out on welcoming the Italian national team, which was seduced by the charms of the Schloss Weikersdorf hotel in Baden bei Wein, Austria – and by the fact that the region was covering the costs of their stay, estimated at more than SFr1 million.
swissinfo, Simon Bradley
Switzerland is co-hosting the Euro 2008 football tournament with Austria from June 7-29.
The 31 games will be played in four cities in Switzerland (Basel, Bern, Geneva and Zurich) and four cities in Austria (Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Vienna).
The Letzigrund stadium in Zurich will host three matches: Romania - France on June 9, Italy - Romania on June 13 and France - Italy on June 17.
Up to 5.4 million football fans are expected to follow the tournament in Switzerland, including 1.4 million from abroad.
Swiss Federal Railways has announced it will put on an extra 3,800 services and deploy 1,500 special customer advisors during the tournament.
Teams in Switzerland
Switzerland: Feusisberg, Panorama Resort & Spa. Training: Freienbach – June 3 (6pm); June 8 (11am); June 12 (11am); free but tickets to be ordered from www.hoppschwiiz-training.ch
Portugal: Neuchâtel, Beau-Rivage; arrive June 1. Training: La Maladière, Neuchâtel – June 3 (6.30pm); June 8 – tickets required.
Turkey: Geneva, La Réserve Bellevue; arrive June 1. Training: Colovray, Nyon – June 2 (7pm); June 3 (7pm); June 4 (7pm); free.
Germany: Ascona, Albergo Giardino, arrive June 3. Training: Ascona. No public access.
Netherlands: Lausanne, Beau-Rivage Palace; arrive June 3. Training: La Pontaise, Lausanne – June 5 (6pm); June 10; free.
Romania: St Gallen, Säntispark, arrive June 2. Training: St Gallen Stadium.
France: Mont-Pèlerin, Mirador Kempinski; arrive: June 4. Training: Châtel-Saint-Denis – June 5; free but tickets required.
Sweden: Lugano, Villa Sassa, arrive June 4. Training: Cornaredo, Lugano – June 4 (6pm); June 11 (1pm); free.
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