Swiss all set for Euro - come rain or shine

June 7th, 2008 - 3:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Geneva, June 7 (DPA) With more rain forecast for the weekend in Switzerland, Euro organisers were hoping on the eve of Saturday’s kickoff that wet weather would not dampen the spirits of supporters. Worse still they were looking at their budgets and wondering what impact the unseasonal weather would have on their financial returns with fan zones and giant screens exposed to the elements.

The ruling body UEFA has estimated a $2 billion turnover in both host countries Austria and Switzerland, with around half covering the costs of stadium rental, security and staffing.

Switzerland is expecting returns of around $1.4 billion and Austria $1.7 billion.

The four Swiss venue cities had commissioned a series of studies to measure profits that would be published once the tournament had ended.

State councillor Mark Muller said the cost to Geneva was 28 million Swiss francs ($27 million) and no one could be certain what financial return that would bring.

“It is very hard to estimate profits before an event. The weather is unpredictable. It’s certain three weeks of good weather would present a very different outcome than three weeks of rain,” he said.

“We’re looking to Euro to help develop our image and show that we know how to party, that we like sport and can organize big events,” said Muller. “We’re hoping there’ll also be benefits from a growth in tourism.”

Meteo Suisse said the weather would improve with more sunny spells expected after the weekend but it would become changeable again.

“Temperatures are around 15 degrees celsius at the moment. They are expected to rise early next week but normally temperatures are around 24 to 25 degrees at this time of the year,” said weatherman Lionel Peyraud.

Despite the rain more than 3,000 fans turned out at Chatel St-Denis, near Lausanne, to watch France at its first public training session Thursday night.

“It’s great to see them closer than on the television,” one fan, who had travelled around 250 kilometres from Burgundy, France, to see his team, told Swiss radio.

The fan zones set up in all the major cities were reportedly ready for business and would open Friday evening.

In Geneva, more than 800 volunteers headed to Switzerland’s biggest fan area in the city centre at Plainpalais Thursday evening to “test” the facilities and declared them fit for use.

The testers even tried out the 40 food stalls in the rain and gave them marks.

Everything is set for the fans. In Berne, the city has even organized access to psychological support for those overwhelmed by the excitement or disappointment.

As well as fans, political leaders have not failed to appreciate that the Euro will be an important meeting place.

Swiss President Pascal Couchepin will greet the heads of UEFA and FIFA, Michel Platini and Joseph Blatter, respectively, and an Austrian delegation headed by President Heinz Fischer, at his official resisdence in Lohn ahead of Saturday’s tournament opener between Switzerland the Czech Republic in Basel.

Depending on the results, the French and Italian presidents might visit, too.

The President of the European Commission, Jose Barroso, was due in Berne on Friday, carefully sidestepping any diplomatic traps by declaring himself “a European and a Portugal supporter.”

He was to head to Geneva for Saturday’s encounter between Portugal Turkey.

The French language daily Le Temps speculated that in view of discussions over Turkey’s entry to the European Union, some might find his cheering Portugal on against Turkey in poor taste.

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