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Friday, 8 December, 2000, 13:03 GMT
What's in it for Nice?
Protester running from Police
Protesters take some of the gloss off Nice
With violence breaking out at the European Union's Nice Summit, city leaders are again reminded of the pitfalls of hosting attention-grabbing conferences.

As EU leaders descended on the Côte d'Azur port of Nice, locals might have hoped the summit would put their city on the political as well as the tourist map.

However, with demonstrators and police clashing outside the conference, Nicoise may now fear their home town will live in infamy as Europe's Seattle.

Protester arrested in Nice
Nice to see you, to see you Nice
Seattle is still licking the wounds inflicted by the violent demonstrations which accompanied last year's meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The city, which is home to such corporate giants as Boeing, Microsoft and Starbucks, had banked on bolstering its kudos among the global business community.

But the public relations bid backfired, and instead millions of people now associate Seattle with images of smashed glass and tear gas.

The riots which marred the five-day WTO meeting cost the city $9m, after the cost of putting right vandalism and paying police overtime was taken into account.

As well as lost business, locals were horrified to see pictures flashed around the world of their menacingly well-equipped police.

What went wrong?

When it was all over, Seattle's mayor, Paul Schell, was in no doubt the entire event had gone badly awry.

WTO protests in Seattle
"Could you point me to the nearest Starbucks, officer?"
"We're taking the city back to make Seattle again," he told concerned locals.

It could have been so different. Hosting international conferences has been the making of many a city.

Geneva is synonymous with humanitarianism, thanks to the series warfare protocols - the Geneva Convention - brokered by the Swiss-based Red Cross.

Similarly, Canada's capital witnessed the birth of an international effort to outlaw landmines: the so-called Ottawa Process.

Inhabitants of the once obscure Dutch city of Maastricht may not care for the tone in which Euro sceptics talk of their home. But there's only one thing worse than being talked about...

Step aside Maastricht

When Cardiff was picked to host a summit at the end of the UK's presidency of the EU in June 1998, the Welsh capital relished the prospect of such respectable notoriety.

"I hope it dries before Tony gets here"
Alas, it was not to be. But Cardiff is not alone in such disappointment.

The Hague, in the Netherlands, and Kyoto, in Japan, may go down in history more for the hot air of political negotiations, than for any real progress on reducing greenhouse gases.

However, even if a city doesn't go down in the history books, it can do very well from hosting a few days of political glad-handing.

The rather rundown resort of Nago, on the Japanese island of Okinawa, got more than a lick of paint when it welcomed leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) last summer. It secured $945m of investment from Tokyo.

When Birmingham hosted the G7 summit in 1998, it was a perfect opportunity to show off the results of the city's ambitious regeneration programme.

Back on the map

The Times responded by declaring "Birmingham is once again the centre of the industrial world".

Birmingham be proud
Myra Benson, project manager for the summit, says it was a wonderful experience for the city.

"You can host these things in a way which is just inconvenient to citizens - what with the huge motorcades and tight security - and then have the city foot the bill. We didn't do either."

Ms Benson says "Brummies" were proud to accommodate the 2,000 delegates and 3,000 journalists.

"We ran a campaign with posters saying: 'Birmingham welcome the world and hold your head high'."

Citizens were encouraged to engage with delegates. "We tried to make the people feel involved, so it wasn't just something happening to their city."

Picture perfect

When Bill, Boris and Tony rocked out to pop group All Saints at the Symphony Hall, 30,000 locals sang along in a simultaneous concert.

But was it a cost-effective display of civic pride?

Kohl, Yeltsin, Chirac and Blair at Birmingham summit
"No, Boris, they don't need any more photos of you holding a pint"
The summit brought in more than £6m over the weekend, says Ms Benson.

Sponsorship helped soften the blow, but the event still cost the city council £240,000.

"If you'd asked me how much I'd pay for a photo of Bill Clinton drinking a pint in one of the city squares I'd regenerated - I'd probably have said much more than a quarter of a million pounds."

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07 Dec 00 | Europe
07 Dec 00 | Europe
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