By Mark Chaplin
UEFA EURO 2008™ in Austria and Switzerland may still be three years' away, but the preparations are already well under way.
The Austrian Football Association (ÖFB), Swiss Football Association and UEFA are putting the various structures in place for the final round, and uefa.com took the opportunity to ask a few questions to the Austrian EURO 2008™ tournament director Christian Schmölzer.
uefa.com: What are your duties as tournament director?
Christian Schmölzer: It is an honour and great challenge to be tournament director. It is surely a dream job for anyone working in football. And for Austria, it is a one-time experience to organise the EURO. We [tournament directors] have limited competences, and we are responsible for overall preparations in the host country. Above all, the responsibility consists of security, administrative work and stadium preparations.
uefa.com: What are your priorities at this stage in preparations for the tournament?
Schmölzer: Even at the moment, preparations are running at high speed. However, we are still somewhat in the shadow of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. It will be important for us to move preparations forward in the next year. The topic of security is very important. At the moment, we are discussing and coordinating different concepts with the Austrian authorities. The other issue is co-operation with the host cities, and to develop this step by step and agree different issues which are relevant for them.
uefa.com: The support of the authorities in Austria seams to be very positive...
Schmölzer: Yes, we can say this without hesitation. We have a whole range of contacts with all kind of authorities based around security issues at present, which are very important. We have very close and good relations with the Austrian Interior Ministry and also with all other authorities and ministries
uefa.com: What kind of tournament can we expect, especially as Austria is very experienced in the tourism field?
Schmölzer: We can expect a tournament with very high organisational standards and hospitality. I hope that all political and host city representatives understand what an opportunity this tournament is for the two countries, and that the tournament should become a national event in Switzerland and Austria.
uefa.com: The tournament also provides a major economic opportunity for the two countries.
Schmölzer: Here we have the example of Portugal . The Portuguese understood how to organise a football festival, mobilise the population and stand 100 per cent behind the tournament. We will have to put in all of our effort to achieve this.
uefa.com: The organisation of EURO in your country should provide great motivation for young Austrian football players?
Schmölzer: Of course the tournament will have a big impact on the players, and the ÖFB is making efforts to build a national team that will be strongly competitive by 2008. These efforts are taking place within the framework of the Challenge 2008 project, which aims to nurture young talents to a high level and so achieve significant results. This will have an important impact on the overall mood in the country.
uefa.com: What are your next steps?
Schmölzer: The issues in the coming months will not change from what we are doing now. By the end of the year, we want to complete the signatures of host city charters. With regard to security, we will have to harmonise the different concepts. Ahead of us is the management of the venues - that is to say, we now have to define the organisation of the actual matches in the venues.
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