Cultural capital?

Last Wednesday, the British culture minister announced the government’s choice for the European Cultural Capital for 2008. Six British cities had declared their candidature: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, Newcastle and Oxford, and competition became so intense that an outside observer might have thought they were vying to host the Olympic Games in that year. The announcement was televised amid an atmosphere of national suspense. Eventually, the champagne was cracked open in Liverpool. And, after a long night of partying, residents of the northern city were probably overwhelmed to read national press reports gushing with praise and optimism for the city’s good fortune. So much for Britain. But two years before Liverpool gets its break, a Greek city has its turn: Europe’s cultural capital for 2006 is Patras. If you are from this central city – or a dedicated reader of the arts pages in the press – you will know this already. Many others may be hearing this for the first time. Despite having been made public over two years ago, Patras’s candidature was approved by the EU just three months ago, as Greece’s proposal took a while to convince representatives of member states. While the EU’s inquisitors were deliberating, the Greek national press was less optimistic in its coverage of the prospects of the capital of Achaia prefecture. Some reports even reckoned that it would be deprived of its title due to inadequacies in its application.

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