As part of a three-year campaign to strengthen cultural and economic ties with Britain, Switzerland wants to create temporary ski slopes in London.
The campaign title - "Dialogue Across Mountains" - refers to the historic links between the Swiss landscape and the British, who virtually founded the modern ski industry and were the forerunners of winter tourism in the alps.
But organisers are swift to point out that the title is merely a point of departure for three years' events and dialogue on aspects of the relationship between the two countries.
To emphasize the cultural links, the official opening of the campaign took place at the Tate Modern - a building transformed by Basel architects Herzog and de Meuron from a former power station into one of Europe's leading contemporary art museums.
Opening with a flourish
Among those attending the opening ceremony were Swiss foreign minister Joseph Deiss, the British minister responsible for culture and sport, Tessa Jowell, and some 400 other celebrities and guests from the worlds of politics and business.
A recent opinion poll commissioned by the Swiss embassy in London revealed that 36 per cent of the British associate Switzerland with the alps. Ambassador Bruno Spinner is hoping that this association will be made much wider by the campaign and will reach new cultural peaks. He has said that a love of the mountains provides common ground for engaging in dialogue.
The campaign is being orchestrated by "Presence Switzerland", an official body which promotes the visibility of and goodwill towards Switzerland. As a token of their faith, the organisers have gone to the extent of placing their trust in the notoriously fickle English weather.
They are planning, among other things, to build a snow slope in Hyde Park for competitions overseen by Swiss ski celebrities.
by Richard Dawson
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