Party over at Euro 2008?
Switzerland have already bowed out and Austria are only just clinging on after a stoppage time penalty equaliser against Poland on Thursday. But the Euro 2008 organisers are insisting that no hosts equals no problem.
As soon as the Swiss made their early exit, Switzerland’s sports minister, national team coach Koebi Kuhn and UEFA spokesman William Gaillard were quick to weigh in with assurances that the party would continue even if Austria follow Switzerland’s disappointing example.
Some may have been surprised to hear that the party had even begun. A mixed bag of weather, including the deluge that nearly drowned those of us ‘fortunate’ enough to have front row seats for the Switzerland v Turkey game, and the two local teams’ early results had already put a sometimes literal dampener on the first few days.
And while the tournament’s organisers clearly have an interest in saying everything is fine, some local businesses seem less convinced. Fanzones away from Switzerland’s main host cities, catering specifically to local supporters, have already reported some disappointing attendance figures, citing weather and the Swiss results as the main factor. Even some of the host city fan zones have reportedly been laying off some of their temporary workers due to lower than expected turnover.
In cities where visiting fans have arrived en masse there is certainly no lack of atmosphere. My own home city, the Swiss capital Berne, has been joyfully swamped by a fantastic orange-wigged army of Dutch supporters. The nearest thing we usually get to that is the city’s annual early morning festival in celebration of the onion – but that probably belongs in another blog….
But the point is that surely local interest is a must in any of the cities not blessed (if that’s the right word?) by hordes of drunken Dutch fans. UEFA might be reckoning on a cumulative television audience of something like eight zillion people, but for the fanzone concept to remain a success, the fans who actually bother to visit the tournament even without tickets will want to know that there’s enough local atmosphere to make it worth their considerable efforts. So do you think Switzerland can pick themselves up from the early exit that few of the fans here expected, even if the rest of Europe did?
Personally, I think if the football stays as entertaining as it has been so far, and the weather continues to improve, the Swiss will be able to prove that they are not as allergic to partying as national stereotype might suggest.
Ironically, though, the biggest threat to the mood in Switzerland could be if their Austrian neighbours do manage somehow to beat Germany and end up with the unexpected bragging rights over the supposedly superior Swiss. Maybe losing two co-hosts isn’t the worst scenario after all…
PHOTO: Switzerland fans react after defeat to Turkey at St Jakob Park in Basel, June 11, 2008. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen