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Zurich puts central status on ice


Zurich, Switzerland's largest city and financial hub, will take a back seat to the capital, Bern, for the country's largest sporting event of the year.

The northern Swiss city is the number two host of the 2009 World Ice Hockey Championship. But instead of playing at the home arena of the Zurich Lions, teams will square off in the town of Kloten, 12 kilometres away.

Heinz Mazenauer, head of communications for the tournament, which begins on Friday afternoon, told swissinfo that organisers did not want a second large arena.

Bern was chosen for its big arena and proximity to French-speaking Switzerland, he said, leaving organisers looking for a second place to hold games.

They could have chosen either the town of Rapperswil or Kloten, and ended up going with the latter because it was near hotels, the airport and the city of Zurich.

Arena decision

Mazenauer said that controversy over Zurich’s historic Hallenstadion, the largest arena in the region, did not factor in the decision to hold the tournament outside the city.

Local politicians had secured funding to renovate the Hallenstadion, arguing it would improve the quality of sporting events. But after the money came through and improvements were made, the hockey games were supplanted by other events.

The newly formed Champions Hockey League, for example, played some games in the town of Rapperswil, three-quarters of the way down Lake Zurich.

The International Ice Hockey Federation on its website touts Schluefweg arena – renamed Arena Zurich-Kloten for the tournament – as having played host to a tennis tournament, a 2004 floorball world championship and as being “idyllically located by the woods”.

But as some teams finish off the round robin play at Kloten, crooner Lionel Richie will serenade a different breed of fan at the Hallenstadion.

All elimination games will be held in Bern and on May 10, the day of the final, the largest arena in Switzerland’s largest city will host the Harlem Globetrotters, an exhibition basketball team.

Activities for fans

Luckily, when fans are not attending hockey or basketball games, they will be able to pass the time in central Zurich, which is a ten-minute train ride away.

Switzerland’s biggest city has been repeatedly ranked as the best in the world to live in and boasts world-class art museums, a stunning waterfront boardwalk and countless luxury stores.

In addition to bars, concerts, opera and theatre, alternative culture is also present at the Rote Fabrik (Red Factory).

Zurich also attracts people from other parts of Switzerland, indeed from all over the world. People often feel that compared with the rest of the country everything moves at great speed.

For many Swiss, Zurich is perceived as arrogant. The locals tend to make people feel that way just by using certain names: Unique airport, Science City at the Federal Institute of Technology, or simply Downtown Switzerland.

Whether this gives the hosts an advantage on the ice, we’ll have to wait until May 10 to see.

swissinfo, Justin Häne

The IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship runs from April 24 to May 12 in the cities of Bern and Zurich.

700 million people are expected to watch on television on at least 70 television channels in over 100 countries.

Each match will be followed by over 20 cameras.

The budget is over SFr31 million.

446,440 tickets are available. 303,000 have been sold.

10,000 students have registered for seats for the games.

150 coaches will gather for a symposium in Kloten.

Organisers will hand out 17,000 fruit to players in dressing rooms and hotels.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR