Dutch Euro fans paint Switzerland orange
The city of Berne has been painted orange instead of the emblematic red of Switzerland as thousands of Dutch fans have made it their home away from home for Euro 2008. By Heather Lima and Heinz-Peter Dietrich.
The orange invasion has taken place with the blessing of the city fathers as the Netherlands is playing all of its group C games at the Stade de Suisse.
The street lamps are festooned with orange flags. Even the flowers are orange. The city's gardeners spent hours planting 11,000 tulip bulbs - a gift from the Dutch Government.
Then five Dutch men came up with the idea of creating a number of campsites in the area in order to accommodate the thousands of fans from their homeland who were expected to flock to Switzerland.
They set up an association and launched Oranje Dorp (Orange village) - taking Oranje, the nickname of the national team as their inspiration. Between them they organise the marketing and bookings as well as the facilities.
The Bernese authorities have no less than 80 pages of red tape regulating campsites, but nonetheless, the whole Dutch set-up was ready in around six months.
The fans have been arriving non-stop, eager to enjoy cut-price accommodation at EUR 22 a night.
Friday saw the biggest crowd so far in Berne as 150 000 people turned out for the France-Holland game, according to official estimates, that was more than one fan for every resident.
In Flamatt and Neuenegg, about 10 kilometers south of Berne, the "Oranje Dorp" has been like a magnet for the Dutch who filled it to its capacity of 3,000 spaces ahead of the game against France. Many stayed on for Tuesday's less crucial encounter with Romania.
One of the big attractions is the party atmosphere.
The Dutch have had every reason to party so far after their team's momentous 3-0 win against world champions Italy in their opening game on Monday and the 4-1 thrashing they gave World Cup runners-up France on Friday.
"They have a crazy tendency to celebrate as though we have already won," said one of the campsite founders 42-year-old Dieter Loosli.
At another Oranje Camp near Interlaken, the beer has been flowing. Organizer Jokko de Wit claims that consumption is around 2.7 litres per person a day.
Here the party tent is open until 2am and the bar stays open another hour after the music stops.
"It is a great atmosphere. It is one big celebration," said the receptionist and marketing officer, Lieske De Haas.
The 2,500 places on the site have been booked out completely since Thursday.
"There are around 100 people who have booked for the entire tournament," added De Haas.
Back at Flamatt and Neuenegg, there is an adjoining public viewing zone that has meant many campers do not even bother to go to Berne to watch the match but stay on site.
Part of the success is due to good marketing. The fan camp on the banks of the River Sarine is promoted on a Dutch language website.
It also has to do with Dutch enthusiasm for camping, a fact recognised by Swiss Euro co-ordination Benedikt Weibel in a press conference Saturday. Neither the Geneva nor Basle fan camps have proved so successful.
"Unfortunately, unlike the Dutch, the Czech supporters aren't great lovers of camping," he said.
"Nobody ever really thought that there would be around 100,000 Dutchmen coming to this place," Loosli smiled.
Co-organiser Teddy Wassmer, a Dutch man living in Switzerland, summed it up: "My motherland is coming to see me."
16 June 2008
[Copyright Expatica + DPA]