The Matterhorn is part of the mountainous Swiss Alps, distinct for its triangular jagged tooth look with its peak in a sea of clouds. Located in the popular Zermatt municipality, the Matterhorn’s unique natural landscape makes it the ultimate hiker’s spot and offers breathtaking panorama of the Alps.
It is easily thought to be the most famous mountain in Europe and a high-in-demand tourist destination.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has put several restrictions on travel, most of the tourist businesses in the Zermatt-Matterhorn are closed. However, its authorities chose to send hope and solidarity in the midst of the crisis through light projections of different country flags on the peak of its majestic landscape for a period of five weeks.
Starting from the 24th of March till the 26th of April 2020, over eighty country flags, coat of arms, and symbols were illuminated onto the Matterhorn in the evenings.
Gerry Hofstetter, an award-winning Swiss light artist was selected to implement the lighting initiative. Hofstetter is well known for transforming buildings, landscapes and other surfaces into temporary art objects of light around the world since 1999. To say he did a great job is an understatement, considering that the illumination was done with a projector taking into account the effects of light pollution.
According to Matterhorn’s website, the initiative achieved an international reach of over 700 million with individual contributions on social media receiving up to 1.7 million reactions and counting. Several diplomatic missions and opinion leaders also took time to share images online of their country’s flag being illuminated on the Swiss Alps, and thanked the initiators for a job well done especially in such times when people all around the world were coming together in solidarity and strength to spread hope amidst the pandemic. In appreciation for projecting its flag for example, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) illuminated the Swiss cross on its tallest building, the Burj Khalifa on the 19th of April 2020.
Other countries that had their flags illuminated onto the 14,692 feet tall Swiss Alps over the five week period include USA, Singapore, India, South Africa, Austria, Canada, Pakistan, Turkey, Russia, Germany, Morocco, Thailand, South Korea, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Sweden, Netherlands, Oman, China and many more.
The nightly series also saw statements such as #hope, #solidarity, #thanks and #stayathome illuminated to reiterate the need to inspire and educate in a time of crisis.
Though there have been a few critical voices about authorities coming up with this initiative, it is obvious that nearly all reactions have so far been impressive. These are not normal times and people are touched by acts of solidarity which seek to spread the message of hope that everyone needs in these times.
The goal of this project has clearly been achieved, considering the kind of positive responses it has received from stakeholders; which in this case includes people from all around the world. It has also garnered so much media attention globally, and projected Switzerland in a very positive light amidst the pandemic which would forever be remembered.
By: Theresa R. Fianko
“Photographs by: © Michael Portmann”
Important notice***All images used are licensed to Zermatt Tourismus. Images used are in accordance and respect to the General Terms and Conditions of Business of Zermatt Tourismus, governed by Swiss law.