Hannes Richter

EURO 2008 - Paella instead of Weißwurst after all…

Hannes Richter

The final of the EURO 2008 Soccer Championship on June 29th, 2008 in Vienna was a competition between two of Europe’s leading soccer nations. Spain and Germany had advanced to the final round by defeating Russia and Turkey, respectively, in the semifinals. Although a slight favorite, Germany was no match for the speed and technique of the Spanish “matadors.” The superb goal of Spanish striker Fernando Torres in the 33rd minute was the deciding factor in the game, but the 1-0 victory did not reflect the supremacy of the Spanish team.

“Viva España” was the theme of the last day of the championship, but the Spanish team was not the only winner in this tournament. The host cities for the competition were both pleased with the success of the event. In particular, Vienna’s Michael Häupl saw various reasons for the tournament’s success in Vienna. More than 1,145,000 people gathered in the Fan Zone in the inner city to enjoy the games, restaurants and bars. Other businesses profited from the event as well and the expansion of the metro system in Vienna will have a lasting effect on the city. The broadcast of the games all over the world reached 8 billion viewers, and Austria and Switzerland were able to further promote their countries as safe, fun, and clean places to visit.

In the weeks leading up to the final, Europeans had been following the EURO 2008 games in Austria and Switzerland with excitement; thousands of visitors and millions of TV viewers were awaiting the final games with anticipation.

The Austrian Embassy hosted a public viewing of the EURO 2008 Championships with indoor and outdoor activities. The number attending exceeded all expectations. More than 800 soccer fans gathered at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. on the day of the final. The enthusiasm for the event was demonstrated by the number of public gatherings throughout the city. For weeks the Austrian Embassy had received calls concerning the games asking when they would be shown and whether the public would be invited. While Germany and Spain were the finalists for the Championship, the fans at the Austrian Embassy were from diverse cultural and national backgrounds, and people were cheering for both teams.

The public viewing at the Austrian Embassy was not the only event available to soccer fans. There was the coverage available throughout the country of the games broadcast by ESPN. The public was invited to the Swiss Embassy for the showing of the opening game on June 7. Other events were offered by the Embassies of Austria and Switzerland as well as by the Goethe Institute and the German Marshall Fund. Hundreds of soccer fans attended these earlier stages of the games leading to the finals.

The EURO 2008 Soccer Championship also offered a good opportunity for diplomacy outside the official channels. The Transatlantic Soccer Cup, introduced by the Austrian and Dutch Embassies in Washington, D.C. was held again this year at the Maret School on the morning before the EURO 2008 finals. This year’s transatlantic tournament included the participation of four teams: Austria-Germany, the Department of State, Switzerland, and Think Tank D.C. They challenged each other to a series of games for the Transatlantic Trophy. In the end, Think Tank D.C. proved to be the strongest contender with three victories. The Transatlantic Cup Trophy will be alternately displayed at the German Marshall Fund and the Heinrich Böll Foundation for the next twelve months.