Bring on the fans: this month, millions of football fans will find their way to Swiss and Austrian cities for the Euro 2008 football tournament. Three airports in Switzerland will serve as entry points: Zurich, Geneva and Basel. Are they prepared for the influx?

Author:Heddema, Renske
Position:NEWS FEATURE
 
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'30 seconds to Heidi' a yellow sign tells passengers arriving at Zurich Airport. Football fans crowding the Skymetro to the arrival terminal hear the sound of an alphorn on the train's public address system, accompanied by cowbells and yodellers. Suddenly the Swiss icon par excellence, appears on the wall of the tunnel to the left of the train--a young girl with golden braids and wearing traditional Swiss costume. Heidi turns toward the cabin, kisses the window, and before passengers fully grasp what just happened, she is gone.

What is arguably the shortest-ever Heidi film evokes smiles of recognition in travellers from all over the world.

Zurich gears up

Even so, at Zurich Airport, Heidi may be temporarily upstaged in the run-up to Euro 2008. Immense photographs of Tranquillo Barnetta and other top players from the Swiss national team cover an entire wall in the baggage claim area. Gigantic banners are on display in the towering heights of Dock E, and outside, opposite the terminals.

Tournament sponsor Mastercard is hoping for priceless moments at the events, which will be the highlight of the European sports calendar this summer.

Swiss Airlines has given a 'jumbolino' aircraft a special multi-coloured Euro 2008 coating and the airport busses all have Euro 2008 logos. Most of the shops are preparing their offerings for the tournament.

And then, too, there's the everyday hustle and bustle as the airports keep expanding to meet society's ever-growing appetite for mobility. At Zurich Airport, for example, a new SAS Radisson Airport Hotel will open its doors this summer, a new Swiss VIP lounge is under construction, and Immigration has temporarily moved close to the luggage area to make way for ongoing construction efforts.

High-end shops in the docks and terminals are hardly affected. Gucci has just chosen Zurich Airport as the base for its only dedicated boutique on Swiss soil. Sprungli's bakers continue to make their fine chocolate close to the gates, in full view of travellers.

"With all the recent extensions and those currently underway, we are perfectly prepared for the EURO 2008," says Sonja Zochling, Head of Corporate Communication for Unique, the owner and operator of Zurich Airport.

"The capacity of our airport largely suffices for the extra tens of thousands we expect. We do not employ extra personnel, but work with volunteers."

Marcel Strebel from the Kantonspolizei doesn't disclose the number of extra...

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