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Austria and Swiss leaders praise green success of Euro 2008

30 June 2008

VIENNA – Government leaders of European Championship co-hosts Austria and Switzerland have described the tournament as a resounding success off the pitch because of security, public transport and ecological measures.

Swiss Defence Minister Samuel Schmid said Sunday that Euro 2008 has had significant positive effects in his country, despite the fact that both co-hosts were eliminated in the first round.

“It’s been a mega event. The third biggest sports event in the world has been organised with no problems,” Schmid said.

“In Switzerland, we’ve had fewer traffic bottlenecks, less road congestion and even the crime rate dropped in some places.

“The Swiss population have been enthusiastic about football. The event has been peaceful, any exceptions only confirm the rule. The security services were adequate. We had hundreds of additional trains running on schedule, this took a burden off the roads. Many of these elements will have a sustainable effect.”

That success has also been represented on the pitch and in television figures.

At least 150 million TV viewers worldwide have seen each match at Euro 2008, while an estimated record 300 million people are expected to watch Sunday’s final between Germany and Spain at Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna – 30 million more than the Euro 2004 final, organizers said.

Ahead of the final, there have been 76 goals at Euro 2008, one fewer than the total number at the tournament in Portugal four years ago.

Austria Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer said organisers had coped well after heavy rain forced the pitch at St. Jakob Park in Basel, Switzerland, to be replaced and the thunderstorm forced the main fan zone in Vienna to be evacuated.

“We were able to cope with difficult situations – the heavy rain in Basel, the thunderstorm in Vienna during which the fan zone had to be evacuated,” Gusenbauer said. “In terms of security, the more critical matches like Germany against Poland, Croatia against Turkey and Switzerland against Turkey, these were all situations that were coped with very, very well.”

Gusenbauer described Euro 2008 as an ecologically orientated tournament, and slammed the critics who had predicted chaos before it had begun.

“This was a green European Championship because much of the traffic, long distance and in the cities, were carried by public transport,” he said. “While the atmosphere in the viewing zones was excellent, was peaceful.

“The negative scenarios that had been announced by certain prophets of doom, that city centres would be destroyed, that there would be hooligans all over the place, that the public parks would be ruined. All sorts of fears and anxieties had been expressed, but nothing like that happened.”

[AP / Expatica]