Football and culture vie for attention at Euro 2008

Austria, Switzerland are determined to offer a cultural feast for football fans during Euro 2008 that endures well beyond the 90 minutes of the game.

updated: June 04, 2008 16:41 IST
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Austria and Switzerland are determined to offer a cultural feast for football fans during Euro 2008 that endures well beyond the 90 minutes of the so-called beautiful game.

Thousands of national and regional bands have been booked to entertain supporters throughout the month-long football fest in the Fan Zones.

There is also everything from classical ballet to concerts by Austrian pop star Christina Stuermer, a range of exhibitions and even films with a sporty flavour.

The party gets going at the eight venues on the eve of Euro 2008. In Basle, where Euro 2008 kicks off, Swiss pop star Baschi, famous for his Euro 2008 anthem "Bring en Hei" ("Bring it Home") will top the bill in an evening rounded off with a huge fireworks display.

Former Spice Girl Mel C, once known appropriately as Sporty Spice, will head the line-up in Zurich on Friday June 6.

Geneva alone is promising more than 800 artists, with 72 concerts and 24 evening DJs. "For two years, we have repeatedly said the Euro will be more than just three football games in Geneva," said city spokesman Mark M ller.

In Salzburg organisers have chosen a number of young local bands, from folk to rock, performing in the fan zone at the city centre. "We rely on the power of the local music scene," mayor Heinz Schaden said.

But there is more than music. In Austria, an interactive exhibition at Vienna's Kuenstlerhaus gallery shines a light on all aspects of the game.

An exhibition at Vienna's Dommuseum investigates the parallels between religious icons and football fandom.

Local cinemas have switched their programmes over to football movies, ranging from silent movie classics or popular Japanese football mangas like "Captain Tsubasa".

To escape all that, coffee lovers can relax in centre of Vienna's cultural quarter where a large open-air coffee house has been set up as a calm oasis in contrast to the fan zone next door.

Klagenfurt shows modern art from Germany, Croatia, Austria and Poland, the four countries playing Austria in Group B in the city. Innsbruck has set up an art zone in the city centre.

In Switzerland, an exhibition called Hors Jeu (Offside) at the Musee d'Ethnographie in Geneva takes a close look at a sport as the "opium of the people".

In Berne at EGW centre in the city, sticker lovers can find paradise at the Panini exhibition. It is the ultimate tribute to sticker albums with examples from all past European and world championships.

In Zurich again, there are alternative football highlights, however on a slightly smaller scale, with the final of the table football tournament on June 28 at Sihlcity. Another nostalgic exhibition close by at Letzipark shopping centre looks back all the way to 1924 when Switzerland became champions of Europe.

Events will climax during the final days with opera stars including tenors Placido Domingo, Rolando Villazon and soprano Anna Netrebko, Chinese pianist Lang Lang and pop legend Elton John taking centre stage in Vienna on June 27 and 28.