Welcome to the launch of swissinfo's special dossier on the Euro 2008 football championships, which kick off in a mere 73 days.
You can be sure that swissinfo will cover every goal involving Switzerland, not to mention other big games. But we also have our eyes and ears open off the pitch to bring you the full Euro experience.
Switzerland is at the geographical heart of Europe, and for a month it and co-hosts Austria will also be the beating heart of European football.
Euro 2008 kicks off at the St Jakob stadium in Basel on June 7, with Switzerland taking on the Czech Republic. It concludes three weeks later, on June 29, at the Ernst Happel stadium in Vienna.
In between, 31 matches involving 16 countries will be played at eight stadiums – four in Switzerland, four in Austria – and will attract millions of fans in person and billions of fans via television.
swissinfo always rises to great sporting occasions – see our Roger Federer dossier, for example – and Euro 2008 is certainly one of those. In fact it is the most important sporting event to take place in Switzerland since the 1954 football World Cup, won by West Germany.
From a purely sporting point of view we will naturally focus on the Swiss team, the semifinals and the final (a Switzerland-Austria final? Stranger things have happened...).
However, while anyone can review a football match, not everyone has a detailed knowledge of Switzerland. It is here, off the pitch, that we will bring Euro 2008 to life – the effect it has on the economy, tourism and the Swiss host cities: Bern, Basel, Geneva and Zurich.
We will observe the event through our own eyes, but also through those of foreign correspondents, Swiss people abroad and Swiss celebrities whose day-to-day connection with football might be somewhat tenuous.
Our multimedia special – which includes videos, galleries and audio – will also have a "women's" section, allowing us to examine whether the French writer Pierre-Louis Rey was right when he described football as a "strange ballet woven by the obscure desires of the male sex"!
In an event where countries, chants and players all get mixed up, we have decided to open up our pages to you, with the view of mixing up opinions as well.
Our "fun blog" will enable us journalists and you viewers to agree, or quite possibly disagree, on a whole range of topics – but always with a sense of humour and "footballing wit".
The "VIP blog" brings together three Swiss celebrities, each with wildly different personalities and each not afraid of mincing their words: the actor Jean-Luc Bideau, the former footballer and manager Umberto Barberis, and a definite exclusive: Heidi herself, who has come down from the meadows especially for swissinfo and will undoubtedly have a lot to say about the contrast.
The whole picture
Our partners in this dossier include Nyon-based Uefa - European football's governing body and the competition organisers, who will be providing us with latest insider news.
On Switzerland Tourism's site you will find answers to all your practical needs, and natifans.ch is a website that enables supporters of the Swiss national team to join up, share their views and their team's joy – or tears – together.
In a nutshell, swissinfo will provide the whole Euro 2008 picture. We will guide you between the enthusiasm of Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee, who said: "Competition is the essence of football", and the derision of US writer Erma Bombeck who said: "Anybody who watches three games of football in a row should be declared braindead."
You love football? Come to swissinfo! You don't love football? Come to swissinfo!
swissinfo, based on a French article by Bernard Léchot
Co-hosts Switzerland and Austria qualified automatically for the tournament, which takes place from June 7-29, 2008.
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 final will be held in Vienna on June 29. Switzerland will play its three group matches in Basel.
The finals will be broadcast in 170 countries and are expected to achieve total audience of eight billion viewers spread over the tournament.
Up to 5.4 million football fans are expected to follow the tournament in Switzerland, including 1.4 million from abroad.
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