THE MANCHESTER BOMBING: City shows its defiance by throwing a Euro 96 party

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The doors of Manchester's Anglican Cathedral, 200 yards from the scene the IRA bomb, were closed yesterday for the first time since the Blitz. And the city's normally bustling commercial centre was silent as forensic squads probed the remains of the destruction.

But Manchester showed its defiance by throwing its latest Euro 96 football party. Fans from the opposing Group C teams of Germany and Russia joined others from Britain and the rest of Europe in flooding into the Old Trafford stadium in sweltering sunshine. Shirts from clubs around the world were in evidence, and police reported no arrests before the match and the good- natured and carefree atmosphere which has become the hallmark of the competition.

Visitors were undeterred by the terrorist menace, determined that nothing would interfere with their enjoyment. Joachim Braun, from Monheim, Germany, said: "I had to phone my mother to say I was OK. She was very frightened and anxious when she heard about the bomb. But it is good to be here. I love football and I wouldn't let something like that stop me coming here."

Clemens Voegele and Bernhard Fritz, from Konstanz, also in Germany, arrived in Manchester yesterday hours before the game at the start of a 10-day visit to the championship. "We heard about the bomb before we left home. Our family did not want us to come but we were not scared," said Mr Voegele.

Away from the grounds, the security ring thrown up by police was still in force, with officers turning away curious pedestrians. The inner "sterile" area, which was closest to the blast, will not reopen until early next week, police said.

The city council set up a desk to advise shopkeepers on clearing up and reopening. It issued a number - 0161 234 1748 - and told keyholders to report to the Lloyd Street entrance of Manchester Town Hall in Albert Square.

In Town Hall chambers and lobbies normally busy running the city, there was instead the matter of returning to normal life. There were two groups: those worried about their businesses and those worried about their homes. Most of the talk in the aftermath of the attack has been about the destruction of the city centre's shops and offices. However, there is a large residential population worried that the IRA has destroyed not just the hopes of peace in Northern Ireland but the homes of innocent people.

Although the Arndale is primarily a retail complex, on its roof there are 60 flats and a large area of rooftop landscaped gardens. On Saturday morning helicopters with loud hailers warned residents of the flats to evacuate their homes immediately. Father and son Michael and Damon Butterworth left their house "within 20 minutes". They spent Saturday night at hotel and conference facilities belonging to the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. Last night they were there again, awaiting news of when, if ever, they will be allowed home.

Michael Butterworth said: "We really enjoy living there and we hope we will be allowed to go back. It's the nicest place I've ever lived - the gardens are wonderful and it's special." His teenage son was mainly concerned for his two cats, Sony and Marmalade. "The authorities don't seen to care; they think it's just two cats but if I'm not allowed to go back soon, they'll be dead. They're dealing with all the tourists and businesses first. Then us. It's all wrong." Engineers were checking buildings throughout the city in an attempt to clear them for re-occupation and allow businesses back in.

Meanwhile, Russian and German visitors in the city for the Euro 96 championship, unable to return to their cordoned-off hotel since Saturday afternoon, were pragmatic.

Boris Khousainov from Siberia, sitting in front of a beer advert urging "drink for England", said: "England is a good country - this [the bomb] is a little problem."