Second city relishes its taste of fame

SUMMIT DIARY

The aspirations of Lyons to take its place on the world stage also appeared to have been underestimated by Paris, which found itself engaged in weeks of guerrilla warfare over arrangements for the visiting dignitaries and press. The result is a double press operation, with the Lyons publicity only just forbearing to say: "If you find the arrangements made by Paris unsatisfactory, try ours next door." Another result is a degree of ambiguity about the position of the mayor of Lyons, Raymond Barre. Until the last minute, it was not known whether Mr Barre, who was France's chief sherpa before the first G7 summit 21 years ago at Rambouillet, near Paris, would be invited to the opening heads of state dinner, even though it was in the precincts of his town hall.

Lyons itself has pulled out all the stops: the national flags of the seven countries, plus the European flag, wave all over the city. The central streets are decked out like a ship on her maiden voyage. The buses trundle round town with a pair of flags on the front - a French tricolour and one other, producing the arresting sight of a solid Lyons bus with the stars and stripes up front. And the gods have been kind: bringing Mediterranean sunshine that flatters the golden stone and turns the city's two rivers (Rhone and Saone) deep blue.

Here and there, however, are touching signs that Lyons is a second city, not (yet) a world city. Obvious visitors are stared at with touching naivety by curious natives. One of the letters that spells "Credit Lyonnais" at the top of the bank's dominating tower does not light up - a defect you feel might have been rectified before a similar event in Paris. And while cultivating its reputation for gastronomy, Lyons is also being ultra-careful: hygiene inspectors have been checking the city's hundreds of restaurants with extra zeal: "Given Lyons' culinary reputation, it would be desperately embarrassing if there were an outbreak of food poisoning just as the eyes of the world are upon us," the city's chief hygiene officer said.

Was it Paris or Lyons that selected the hotels for the delegations with such a delicate sense of irony? The hotel of the EU delegation, the Hotel de la Cour des Loges, is in Rue du Boeuf.

Mary Dejevsky

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