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Behind the scenes in Euro fanzone: food, security and tons of rubbish

SoccerNews in European Championships 18 Jun 2008

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It's past midnight, the day's matches are over, the fans have gone home and Vienna's fan mile has closed down for the night. But for the cleaners, the work day has just started.

From midnight to 5:00 am every day, some 60 street cleaners comb through the 100,000-square-metre area, located right in the middle of Vienna's stunning old town, gathering up paper plates, bottles and discarded paraphernalia.

“They're our elite troops, they're used to working fast and at night,” says Karl Woegerer, spokesman for the City of Vienna's environmental office.

As soon as the last fan has left, these “old pros” sweep in with their machines to gather up all evidence of the night's celebrations – or disappointment – and make the area spick and span for the next day.

Since June 7, 200.9 tons of rubbish have been collected in the fan mile, half of it coming from the various food and drink stalls.

A total 74.2 tons have been found on the ground alone, the amount fluctuating with the size of the crowd and the day's results.

“It was sad after the Austria-Germany game: we found a lot of fan accessories, scarves, some things we couldn't tell what they were except that they were red, white and red,” said Woegerer with a chuckle, referring to the Austrian national colours and whose side went out of the tournament on Monday.

While reinforcements were brought in to help clean other parts of Vienna, the pros were assigned to the fan mile, “because they can do it much more quickly.”

“And they're all fired up,” noted Woegerer.

The same goes for the medical volunteers working in the fan zone.

Every day, 160 dedicated paramedics take their place in three mobile clinics around the fan mile, alongside nine emergency doctors, six nurses and two specialists.

“We stay until the last person leaves,” between midnight and 1:00 am, said emergency services spokesman Andreas Zenker.

Some 500 paramedics and 30 emergency doctors are also on call every day in case of a catastrophe, although mostly minor injuries have been reported halfway through the tournament: usually small cuts and bruises from tripping on the ground, he noted.

Alongside the Austrians, paramedics from Italy, Germany, Hungary and even one from the United States have come to lend a hand, if only for a few days.

“They're not paid but it's a unique experience and they bring language skills with them.”

Austrian paramedics helped their German counterparts during the 2006 World Cup in Germany so people already know each other, said Zenker.

“They contact us, say they want to help and if their credentials are good, why not?”

Like the paramedics, the security staff also has a number of World Cup veterans in its ranks.

Among the 400 stewards, recognisable by their powder blue bibs, about half are Austrian and the other half German, according to Vienna marketing spokeswoman Katharina Kula.

Their job: guarding the seven entrances, conducting strict bag and body checks and directing all prohibited items, including umbrellas and spray deodorants – inflammable material – to a depository.

A small contingent of about 40 also carries out night watch between midnight and 9:00 am.

Just when the majority of food and drink stalls start opening.

“Between 8:30 and 9:00 am, the suppliers come to deliver the meat and vegetables, then we have to start preparing the food,” said Razia Shaikh, who manages an Indian food stall.

And the hours are long.

“At midnight on the dot, everything shuts down but then we still have to clean up.”

The stall is held by an Indian restaurant that closed for a month to allow its staff to work on the fan mile: 10 people work in shifts there, preparing lamb korma, vegetable curry and samosas.

“We always cook small and fresh dishes, so we don't have too much left over,” said Shaikh.

“Unfortunately we haven't had as many customers as we expected. In the morning, business isn't very good.”

Many foodstalls have complained about having to open at 9:00 am when matches are in the evening and fans only start arriving at 4:00 pm.

“Some do stay until midnight, but the majority leave straight after the game,” said Katharina, who works at an official beer stand.

“We already stop serving before midnight and start cleaning so we don't get out too late.”

Still, working in the fan mile is more than just a job.

“It's fun to work here, you can watch the games and you feel like you're part of the event,” said Fabian at a nearby drink and snacks store.

“I can at least watch the goals, especially the replays: then people go quiet… or celebrate,” he added with a laugh.

“If I didn't work here, I'd come here in my free time.”

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