Gottardo 2016: A country in an exceptional state

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by Ursula Kampmann
translated by Annika Backe

February 4, 2016 – It is a rare event when the unveiling of a new commemorative coin is attended by several TV teams and numerous representatives of the daily press at once. On January 28, 2016, Swissmint elicited an enormous deal of media interest. The reason for this was obvious: Entire Switzerland is looking forward to the festivity that will be celebrated on June 4 and 5, 2016.

Posters advertise the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel. Source: Gottardo 2016.

The official ceremony on June 1, 2016, when the tunnel construction company will hand over the tunnel to the Swiss Confederation which will then pass it on to SBB, Swiss Federal Railways, will be followed by large festivities for the general public on June 4 and 5, 2016, which are on everybody’s lips already. 

A view inside the tunnel. The first ones that will officially pass through are ordinary Swiss citizens. Photograph: Gottardo 2016.

57 kilometers in length, the Gotthard Base Tunnel is the world’s longest rail tunnel. It is almost without gradients, which means that, in spots, the passenger is 2,300 meter deep below the rocky surface. That makes the tunnel the deepest rail tunnel ever to be constructed. It will not only shorten the travelling distance between central Switzerland and Ticine considerably but, thanks to the lack of gradients, also allow longer trains to pass through which need less energy. Every day, as many as 260 freight trains will be able to pass through the Gotthard Base Tunnel. 

A travelling exhibition about the Gotthard Base Tunnel is currently shown at many Swiss railway stations. Photograph: Gottardo 2016.

It is important to note that the Swiss people have a markedly different attitude towards their railway than, let’s say, the Germans. While the average German (particularly when standing on a chilly platform, faced with the all too common train delays), considers the Deutsche Bahn more as an unavoidable evil, SBB is the pride of the entire Swiss nation. Everybody wants to witness first-hand the first trains passing through the new tunnel. The passengers that are allowed to sit in the first train will be drawn by lots. After the competition had been open for just one week, 140,000 people had already applied for the 490 tickets.
Swiss media, therefore, are full of reports on this technical marvel. And the Swiss people never grow tired of reading about it. They are perfectly aware that they are witnessing a new chapter in the history of technology, opening a tunnel that will still be passed through by their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

The design of the silver coin Gottardo 2016 is being unveiled. From left to right: Marius Haldimann, CEO Swissmint, graphic artist Fredy Trümpi, responsible for the coin’s design, and Dr Peter Füglistaler, Director Swiss Federal Office of Transport. Photograph: Swissmint.

Such a historic moment, complemented by the fitting atmosphere, of course provides the ideal prerequisites for the success of a commemorative coin. This became apparent by the great number of high-caliber attendees of the press conference held at the first day of sale. Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard was likewise expected to attend. However, she had to cancel for personal reasons – her father had died –, which is why ‘only’ Dr Peter Füglistaler, Director of the Swiss Federal Office of Transport, came.

Dr. Peter Füglistaler (on the left in the picture) is a keen coin collector himself. Photograph: Swissmint.

He was the ideal choice, though, since only a coin collector like him can talk about the new commemorative coin so enthusiastically. “He very much looked forward to this event.” That was something very special to him. 

The new coin is highly emotional to all parties involved: On behalf of the project manager, Dr. Peter Füglistaler takes a kind of selfie in front of the commemorative coin. Photograph: UK.

This new commemorative coin is very special indeed. It is the first time in the history of Swiss commemorative coins that Swissmint releases an issue that is related to a historical event, given the Expo 2002 does not classify as such. At any rate, there will be two coins – similarly to the Expo 2002 – that are devoted to the great event. 

Plaster cast model and design drawing. Photograph: UK.

CoinsWeekly will give a report on how this history-making coinage came into being, with the assistance of Swissmint. We intend to illustrate how challenging it is today to start with an idea and finally arrive at the finished coin. 

Data and facts of the commemorative coin can be found here

German-speaking Swiss radion stations broadcasted reports in Schweiz Aktuell and the Tagesschau.

The portal that gathers everything related to the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel is likewise worth a visit.