BERLIN, June 10 (UPI) -- The Euro 2008 soccer championship kicked off with a series of arrests, but officials are convinced that security won't be much of an issue during the three-week tournament in Austria and Switzerland.
It all started two years ago, with the FIFA Soccer World Cup in Germany. In a scope unseen before, millions of soccer fans flocked to hundreds of public viewing events all over the country; in a single day in Berlin up to 1 million fans cheered for their teams at public viewing events across the city. Weeks before the tournament was due to kick off, the term "public viewing" would cause security officials some headaches: How would fans of a team react in case of a defeat? What would happen in case of an emergency?
In retrospect, the games in Germany passed without major incidents (except for a brawl between Polish and German fans in Dortmund that led to 429 arrests), and the public viewing festivities turned into multicultural parties where fans of all countries celebrated together.
That's why, ahead of Euro 2008, Austrian and Swiss security officials were relatively confident that parties would prevail over punch-ups.
Yet over the weekend, neo-Nazi hooligans from Germany managed to amass in Klagenfurt, the sleepy Austrian city on the shores of Lake Woerthersee, in the summer a traditional tourist destination. They were accused of shouting Nazi slogans and anti-Semitic slurs.
"All Poles should wear a yellow star" and "Germans, don't buy from Poles" were among the most disgusting slogans with clear references to the Nazi era, officials said.
Austrian police, aided by experts from Germany, arrested some 150 of them, together with 10 Poles, two Austrians and a Slovenian.
The incident indicates that while violent hooliganism -- with its mass brawls between two fan camps -- is dying down, neo-Nazis are increasingly using such international tournaments as a platform for their ideology.
It remains a mystery, however, how the Germans managed to get across the border; the Schengen agreements are being discontinued for the duration of the tournament, and border controls have been reinforced to keep troublemakers out of the Alpine countries.
Almost 2,000 foreign police officers are stationed in Austria and Switzerland to keep violent fans out, and hooligan centers have been established in the host cities to track the whereabouts of potential troublemakers.
German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble announced he wanted to make it impossible for hooligans to leave Germany. Measures German authorities would take during the tournament would range from having potentially violent fans show up at the local police station every day, to putting them in jail for the duration of the tournament.
"Violence has no chance at Euro 2008," Schaeuble told German mass-daily Bild. "There is an intensive information exchange with Austria and Switzerland, as well as with Poland."
In Bern, Switzerland, authorities even erected temporary detention centers for hooligans -- by remodeling local high school gymnasiums.
Yet despite the tough security measures, officials said they want to create a friendly atmosphere to eliminate trouble before it starts.
"If you don't have trouble, you don't cause trouble" is the slogan used by officials in the host cities.
Security is nevertheless a challenge in the small and narrow centers of the host cities: Klagenfurt, where the Germans were arrested, is a city of 94,000; over the weekend its population doubled -- some 120,000 fans had flocked to the city to watch the game in a stadium or at public viewing events. This, of course, makes providing security all the more difficult.
All in all, more than 5 million fans are expected to attend the tournament in Austria and Switzerland, which gives the Alpine states one of the biggest security operations in their history.