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Marseille elected "European Capital of Culture" in 2013

Robert Arnoux

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Every year since 1985, the European Union chooses a city which, for one year, will be the continent's "Capital of Culture". Last Tuesday, the international jury gave their unanimous verdict: the European Capital of Culture for 2013 will be Marseille, France's second biggest city and by far the oldest one - it was founded as a Greek colony more than 2,600 years ago. Marseille will share this honour with Kosice in Eastern Slovakia.

What gave Marseille an edge over its French rivals - Lyons, Toulouse and Bordeaux - was the strong political and popular support the city's candidature had gained throughout the Provence region.

To be ready for 2013, the city and local governments plan to invest close to 100 million euros in various programmes such as the Cite de l'Image in Arles and, on Marseille' waterfront, the Museum of Europe and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCem) - which Rudy Ricciotti, the architect of both the future ITER building and the Manosque International School, has also designed. Marseille expects considerable economic benefits from the operation. In the northern city of Lille, which was European Capital of Culture in 2004, six euros were reaped for each euro invested.

But what matters most to Marseille and its residents is the recognition of the city's spectacular transformation. Fifteen years ago, Marseille was looked-down upon as a rundown, unsafe and sleazy place. It is now a bustling "Euro-Mediterranean" metropolis - and it has become almost trendy to live or establish a business close to the Vieux-Port, the Joliette or the Canebiere.

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