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Swiss hoist their flag at Turin Olympics

Schmid (centre) watches the raising of the Swiss flag Keystone

The minister for sport, Samuel Schmid, hopes Swiss athletes will bring home at least nine medals from the Winter Games, he told swissinfo.

Schmid took part in Thursday’s welcome ceremony of the Swiss delegation in the Olympic village in Turin, Italy.

At the ceremony the Swiss flag was hoisted and he wished the 130 members of the Swiss team the best of luck for the competitions over the next two weeks.

He thanked the mayor of the Olympic village, Manuela Di Centa – five-time medal winner for Italy at the 1994 Winter Games – and paid a visit to the international radio and television centre.

Schmid, who also holds the defence portfolio, is expected to stay in Turin until Sunday.

swissinfo: What went through your mind during the flag hoisting ceremony?

Samuel Schmid: I think such a ceremony is important for our athletes. It is a symbolic act which touches all Swiss hearts. Its aim is to inspire the athletes to give their best in the competitions.

swissinfo: Does it not hurt a bit to know that Switzerland could be hosting these Games if the town of Sion’s bid had been successful?

S.S.: It was a democratic decision and we have to accept and respect it. The organisers here in Turin have done an excellent job and I’m confident that the competitions will pass off in a good atmosphere.

Let’s focus on the sporting events now. It’s more important to try to claim victory here than to lament about missed chances in the past.

swissinfo: What are your expectations for the Swiss athletes in Turin?

S.S.: Of course, it’s not easy to predict the outcome. But I have no doubt that the Swiss will bring home nine medals.

swissinfo: What’s the significance of the cooperation accord on security between Switzerland and neighbouring Italy signed on Wednesday?

S.S.: Close cooperation is necessary to ensure the protection of the airspace between neighbouring countries. The agreement guarantees mutual assistance during major events. Switzerland has struck a similar accord with France and others will follow.

I’m very pleased that the Italian president [Carlo Azeglio Ciampi] signed the accord on Wednesday evening.

swissinfo: Switzerland is to co-host the European football championships in 2008. What lessons can the Swiss learn from Turin in terms of security?

S.S.: We studied the security measures in place during recent European sports events, and we visited the Summer Olympics in Athens and Euro 2004 in Portugal.

The Swiss authorities are also in touch with the organisers of the football World Cup in Germany later this year.

Switzerland will examine the measures taken in Turin and draw conclusions [for Euro 2008]. So far we can say that the Swiss government’s estimate for security costs during the European football championships is well founded and accurate.

swissinfo-interview: Mathias Froidevaux in Turin

The Swiss town of Sion was among the bidders to host the 2006 Winter Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee awarded the Games to Turin.

Switzerland will co-host the European football championships in 2008 together with Austria.

Switzerland increased its budget for Euro 2008 from an initial SFr10.5 million ($8.1 million) to about SFr180 million, mainly due to higher security costs.

The government said it was willing to pay SFr72 million for security measures, but the four host cities would also have to contribute.

Parliament is still to discuss the payments as well as anti-hooliganism legislation.

The Italian authorities earmarked €90 million (SFr140 million) for security costs during the Olympics.

The 2006 Winter Olympics take place from February 10-26 in Turin, Italy.
Switzerland is represented by 130 athletes, the largest Swiss delegation in the history of the Winter Games.
The Swiss Olympic Association set a goal of at least eight Swiss medals.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR