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The BBC's Philippa Thomas
"No expense spared to showcase the message and the man"
 real 56k

banner Tuesday, 1 August, 2000, 00:04 GMT 01:04 UK
The two faces of Philadelphia
campaign diary
By BBC's Gordon Corera in Philadelphia

Hosting a presidential convention is a big deal for the City of Philadelphia and the hosts are trying to make the most of it, cleaning up the streets, putting up the bunting and throwing a million dollar party for the media.

The last time Philadelphia hosted one of the parties was in 1948, but the intervening half-century has not been kind to the city of brotherly love.

Poster of George W Bush
The Convention is hard to ignore at the moment
The city has seen its manufacturing jobs disappear and the middle classes move out - the population has been dropping and is now at the level it was around World War I.

Many people's images of the city come from the urban decay portrayed in the Rocky films or, more recently, from the bleak Philadelphia with Tom Hanks.

Revival

But the last few years have seen a concerted attempt to try and revitalise the historic centre of town and draw people in and the city sees the 2000 Republican Convention as the best chance to alter existing stereotypes.

Every stop is being pulled out to show the best side and the City has even put on free tours for the 15,000 journalists who are in town.

A history graduate guides you round the city on a tram explaining the city's illustrious past - much of it in the late 18th century when it was briefly the capital of the United States.

The tour group stops off at the City Tavern where the owners in 18th century dress serve the hungry journalists beef and ale pie.

'Bushville'

Parts of the city are undoubtedly beautiful but they are not the whole picture. A local group that deals with poverty called the Kensington Welfare Rights Union is running its own alternate tours for the media that take you to places which booming American economy has not penetrated.

Cleaning up before the Convention
Philadelphia has polishing its image for the Convention
The first stop was "Bushville" a derelict lot where homeless people have set up tents to bring to light the problem of the thousands sleeping rough into the city. The name echoes the "Hoovervilles" which sprang up during the depression and were named after the then president who was seen as failing to act.

After that, it's off to streets filled with derelict buildings, where, as the guides who grew up in Kensington tell us, the number one source of income is welfare and the number two is drug dealing.

The Convention is costing at least $60m, but the estimates are that it could bring in well over $100m to the city as corporations charter yachts and the top restaurants to wine and dine delegates and politicians.

Money has always swarmed towards politics in the US. The Conventions represent the pinnacle of that process, but little, if any, of it will reach the poor neighbourhoods of Kensington during the next week.

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29 Jul 00 | Election news
Choreographing the convention
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