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Friday, 6 July, 2001, 21:47 GMT 22:47 UK
Genoa summit: Calm before the storm
Cement security barriers
A security zone has been set up in the city
By Frances Kennedy in Genoa

The Genoa city council threw a celebration party for its residents on Saturday to celebrate the end of a $100m restoration and clean up programme ahead of the G-8 summit, in two weeks time.

Yet residents' pleasure at their newly spruced-up city is tempered by concern over possible violence by anti-globalisation demonstrators and a massive security presence that could make their lives impossible.

Anti-globalisation activists practise
Anti-globalisation activists practise for clashes with riot police
The lively Italian port city will live in a state of virtual siege for three days, from 20 to 22 July, as leaders of the world's most industrialised nations, and Russia, will gather there to discuss pressing global issues.

The airport, ferry terminal and artery freeway will be closed as will most train stations and motorway exits.

A high security "red zone" has been created around the elegant Ducal Palace, where the G8 leaders will meet, and all residents are being issued with security passes.

Police checks

About 18,000 police and soldiers will be deployed and there are already frequent spot checks by police.

Seeing all these police already makes me feel I'm living in some South American dictatorship

Genoa resident
More than 150,000 Italian and foreign demonstrators are expected to converge on the city. Their leaders say they want to break through the red zone, stop the summit and "free the city" by non-violent means.

But after recent disturbances and damage in Gothenburg, worries about violence incidents have grown. Genoa is a difficult venue because of its geography and history.

It is narrow and winds for 30km along the coast with a medieval centre that is a labyrinth of alleyways, known as caruggi.

Planning for the summit has been further complicated by politics. The new government sworn in only last month had been critical of the choice of Genoa and briefly considered shifting the summit.

Sealing up the drain covers
Municipal workers seals a drain cover to prevent protesters using the drains to get to the centre of the city
New Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has come in person to check on the preparations and his government has begun dialogue with the Genoa Social Forum, which includes 750 groups ranging from anarchists to Catholic charities and environmentalists.

The leaders of the world's most industrialised nations will meet in an immense frescoed salon in the Ducal Palace, where once the 400 senators of the Genoese republic decided affairs of state.

Thousands of journalists

The 5,000 journalists accredited to cover the event will operate out of a restored warehouse complex.

Some of the delegations will be housed on a $300m luxury cruise liner and two less glamorous ships will accommodate journalists who cannot find room in Genoa's hotels.

An anti-globalisation activist makes a plastic shield
An anti-globalisation activist makes a plastic shield in preparation for the protests
"I must remain open by law and I have to take out a $500 insurance policy against damage, but if it goes smoothly Genoa will finally get the attention it deserves as a tourist destination," commented one pharmacist in the red zone.

"Seeing all these police already makes me feel I'm living in some South American dictatorship," complained a young mother.

"I think Genoese people have been patient. They are concerned about possible disturbances but at the same time realise this is a good investment for a city that has never really sold itself," commented Walter Bertini, of the local industrialists association.

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