Austria flaunts quirkiness for Euro 2008

With yob insurance, football-shaped cakes and 100 life-size statues of former soccer hero Hans Krankl, joint host Austria is gearing up for Euro 2008 in its own special way.

In a country better known for mountains and Mozart than midfielders, gradual preparations for the three-week tournament are taking on a distinct Austrian flavour. To make football fans feel welcome in Vienna, organisers are erecting plastic Krankl statues to blend into a city already dotted with stone statues of Austrian composers, philosophers and political figures.

Krankl helped the Alpine nation to beat West Germany in a 1978 World Cup match, which led to the defending world champions being eliminated. Retailers around the capital are stacking their shop windows with soccer ball-shaped smoking pipes, black-and-white cups and ashtrays as well as porcelain cows painted in red and white — Austria’s national colours.

Cremation urn

Vienna’s renowned cake makers are busying themselves by carefully icing Euro 2008-themed cakes.

Not everyone sees the June 7 to 29 event, being hosted jointly with Switzerland, as a good thing for Austria: the Viennese are being encouraged to buy vandalism insurance for fear of gangs of hooligans rampaging through the capital’s immaculate cobbled streets.

”The 2008 European Championship is a brilliant event for football fans. But winning games doesn’t just bring joy, it can also mean malicious damage to front doors, buildings, fittings and furnishings in local businesses,” Vienna Insurance Group said in a statement. An amount of €15 will buy €2 500-worth of vandalism cover during the tournament. For anyone dying as football fever sweeps the country, Vienna’s leading funeral company is offering a football-shaped cremation urn for €362.

Art lovers

Even the national lottery has decided to decorate its lottery balls with a football pattern in an attempt to spark Euro 2008 fever in the country. The hosts are hoping the enthusiasm will help tourism to thrive. Austria wants to turn visiting fans into keen art connoisseurs and mountain hikers by promoting the country’s traditional attractions on Euro 2008 posters. Switzerland has taken a similar route, with an advertising campaign that boasts blonde Alpine damsels as footballers’ wives and girlfriends. — Reuters

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