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Swiss won't miss Olympics, but football takes first place

  • Story Highlights
  • Switzerland co-host Euro 2008 before the Olympics in Beijing
  • Traditionally more interested in Winter Games than summer event
  • Tennis superstar Roger Federer's involvement means the country will be watching
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By Thomas Rickenbach for Sport SF
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Editor's note: CNN's global network of affiliates will be providing dispatches from their countries on the Olympics. In this report, SF Sport report from Switzerland.

(CNN) -- Yes, we have Roger. Yes, we developed the "Bird's nest" Olympic stadium. But in Switzerland, the 2008 Summer Olympics are still far away -- and not just geographically.

Eyes on the prize: Federer is going to the Olympics so the Swiss will be watching.

For once, the Olympics are in second place.

Things will probably be different when the Olympics are almost upon us. But for the moment, the Swiss are focusing on another major sporting event taking place in 2008.

With its neighbour Austria, Switzerland is hosting the European football championship, Euro 2008.

Euro 2008 is the most important European sports event there is. It takes place in June, just two months before the Olympics. Switzerland has never hosted such a large-scale competition before. So it's Euro 2008 first, Olympics second.

Compared with other Olympic years, the Games aren't a big issue yet. Nobody doubts that this will change once the football is history.

The month of July will give weary sports fans (and sports journalists) time to recover. In August, everybody should be ready for the next big party, the Olympics.

But until then, we're taking one day at a time. The Summer Games play nothing like the same role in Switzerland as the Winter Games do. With Switzerland being an alpine country, winter sports are very popular.

The most important alpine downhill skiing races always get the best TV ratings of all sports events. When there are the races in Wengen around noon on Saturday or Sunday in the middle of January, Switzerland stands still.

In the Winter Games -- to be held next in Vancouver in 2010 -- Switzerland has medal hopes in every second or third competition, not just in downhill skiing, but also in bobsleigh, figure-skating and curling, to name just a few.

At the Summer Games, tiny Switzerland faces much greater competition, and medal hopes are scarcer. In any event, Switzerland is sure to bring two big stars to the Summer Games.

One of them is already there: the famous "Bird's nest," the all-new national stadium which will host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the track and field competitions.

The "Bird's nest" was designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. They won the Pritzker Prize, one of the most important awards in architecture, in 2001, and are well-known for their conversion of the Tate Modern in London.

Jacques Herzog and Pierre De Meuron were both born in Basel in 1950. Quick quiz: Which sportsman was born 31 years later in the same town? It's easy for the Swiss, but maybe not for everybody else. Did you guess Roger Federer? Correct!

The four-time World Sportsman of the Year has won nearly every title in tennis, except the French Open, the Davis Cup and an Olympic gold medal.

In Sydney in 2000, a young Federer lost the bronze medal to Frenchman Arnaud Di Pasquale. In Athens in 2004, an early loss against a then almost-unknown Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic came as a huge shock.

Roger Federer has stated on several occasions that the Summer Games are one of this year's main goals. It will be a tough summer for him, starting with the French Open, followed by Wimbledon, the Games and the US Open.

Can he win all four of them? If anyone can, he can -- although he faces tough competition, led by Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Lucky in love, unlucky at cards? Or is it the other way round? At the Olympic Games, Roger hasn't been too lucky on court. It's a different story off court, though. It was in Athens in 2000 that he met and fell in love with Mirka Vavrinec, who represented Switzerland in the women's tournament.

And did you know that Switzerland has its own Chinese gold medal winner? Gymnast Donghua Li left China in 1988 -- another sportsman to fall in love with a Swiss woman. He competed for his new country at Atlanta in 1996 and took home the gold medal in the pommel horse. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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