With 100 days to go before the start of the Euro 2008, Austrian and Swiss organisers show they are ready to host the European football cup. A Switzerland-CzechRepublic opening match will kickstart the festivities on June 7 in Basel.
A tent in a car park is an unlikely place to find European football's top trophy but the organisers of the Euro 2008 championships hope this is just the start of a triumphant journey.
With 100 days to go before the opening match between Switzerland and the Czech Republic in Basel on June 7, the Swiss and Austrian organisers showed off their "Euro Experience Tour" to journalists Thursday at an exhibition centre in this Bern suburb.
The "biggest inflatable tour tent in the world" will take the silver Henri Delaunay trophy around 13 different destinations in the two countries before the tournament kicks off.
The tour also boasts a hot air balloon and interactive video games offering fans the chance to win match tickets.
Euro 2008 SA, the company charged with organising the tournament, has been criticised in some quarters for failing to generate the same fervour and passion that greeted the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
"There is a huge amount of work still to be done," Euro 2008 SA head Martin Kallen told journalists.
He nevertheless voiced confidence that the competition will be a success.
The mayor of Bern, Alexander Tschaeppaet, was also at the event and said preparations were well under way to host the thousands of fans expected from the Netherlands, France and Italy, who will all play their matches in the city.
Neither Switzerland nor Austria boasts a very strong footballing culture in contrast to their larger European neighbours, with winter sports such as skiing and ice hockey enjoying greater popularity.
It is perhaps no coincidence that national traits and traditions are noticeably absent from the glitzy Euro 2008 publicity campaign presented here.
The two official mascots are "Trix" and "Flix", two animated figures who call to mind more the Japanese video game character Sonic the Hedgehog, than Heidi or the Sound of Music.
Similarly, the mascots' official song features no alpenhorns or yodellers, but instead is a dance number by Jamaican reggae star Shaggy, better known for his novelty hits "Oh Carolina" and "Boombastic".
Shaggy was on hand at the press event and insisted that "football is a big part of Jamaican culture" -- but added that he will miss most of this summer's matches because they clash with his own European tour.
The Swiss team will also have its own song, "Bring en hei" ('Bring it home'), by Basel singer Baschi who shot to fame on a reality TV show.
Switzerland last hosted a major football tournament more than half a century ago with the 1954 World Cup.
That event became known as the "Miracle of Bern" after West Germany defied all odds to triumph in the final, setting the stage for that country's postwar football renaissance.
The organisers of Euro 2008 must be hoping that some of that old magic rubs off a second time around.
Date created : 2008-02-29