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Zurich gives Euro 2008 stadium the go-ahead

A model shows the layout of the rebuilt Letzigrund Stadium.

(City of Zurich)

Zurich will be hosting matches during the Euro 2008 football championships, after no objections were received to the rebuilding of the Letzigrund stadium.

The Letzigrund was Zurich’s second choice for the event after a group of residents successfully opposed plans to rebuild the Hardturm site.

The city’s structural engineering department confirmed on Thursday that Zurich would be the fourth Swiss venue for Euro 2008, which is being jointly hosted by Switzerland and Austria.

At a news conference, officials said that Thursday had been the last day for objections and that as none had been received the project could now go ahead.

Work would begin on the stadium at the end of the year, as planned, they said. The stadium will be ready by summer 2007, a year before the championships are due to start and in line with guidelines from European football’s governing body, Uefa.

Zurich voters had approved the financing of the project, estimated to cost SFr121 million ($94 million), last June.

Zurich’s mayor, Elmar Ledergerber, welcomed the news.

"We want to give joy to our population and show that Zurich is not just a beautiful city but that the people are open-minded and know how to enjoy a party," he told swissinfo.

"We will do everything we can to make Euro 2008 an even better tournament than Portugal," added Ledergerber.

Both the Zurich-based world football body, Fifa, and the Swiss Football association said they were pleased with the Letzigrund result. Congratulations have also been sent by the mayor of the Austrian capital, Vienna.

Fears

The news that the Letzigrund stadium has got the go-ahead finally lays to rest fears that Switzerland’s biggest city would miss out on the games.

As part of its winning bid for the championships, the Swiss Football Association (SFA) agreed to stage matches at four stadiums – in Bern, Basel, Geneva and Zurich.

But within months of being awarded the tournament, plans to rebuild the Hardturm stadium in Zurich started unravelling in the face of opposition from local residents.

City officials announced in September last year that the project would not be completed in time for Euro 2008 because of the ongoing legal battle.

Uefa, European football’s governing body, then turned up the heat on the Swiss and Austrian football associations, warning them that they could lose the tournament if they could not provide four venues each.

This left a revamp of the old Letzigrund stadium as the city’s last hope.

"A year ago we were quite sure that we would miss out on hosting the tournament," said Ledergerber.

"When we decided to accelerate the Letzigrund project we knew we ran a high risk of people objecting but we were happy nobody did."

Ledergerber dismissed the idea that the Letzigrund was only a second-best stadium.

"Uefa have told us that the Letzigrund is even better than Hardturm because it has more space which makes it a more convenient and a safer venue," he told swissinfo.

swissinfo

Key facts

Euro 2008 should generate between SFr470 million and SFr545 million for Switzerland.
Tourism will account for 57% of the turnover.
Between 3,240 and 3,790 jobs will be created.
Organisers are looking for 2,500 volunteers from next year.

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