Dangerous Donuts on festival menu

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Give or take a few banners attached to lamp posts, those people who avoid the sports pages could be forgiven for not knowing Euro 96 is about to start. Not for long. The tournament intends reaching out to minds that football does not normally locate, writes Guy Hodgson.

A vast selection of parallel events will take place over the next month that are loosely connected to the European Championship but stem mainly from the desire to expand the event beyond football grounds.

All the host cities have alternative entertainments to Country A against Country B, from the Moscow State Circus in Nottingham to a comedy festival in Liverpool. Manchester, which will have matches at Old Trafford until the semi-final stage, is typical. Under the banner, "Twenty-three days in June" the city (SoccerCity as the PR men have labelled it) will embrace Euro 96 with diversions as wide as exhibitions, concerts and fashion shows.

The day Old Trafford hosts its first match, 9 June, gives an idea of the diverse pleasures available in the eight host cities. As the football ground opens its doors, Manchester throws down the welcome mat with a Lord Mayor's Parade, an Italia Festival and a samba party. There is also an act called Dora's Dangerous Donuts which boggles the mind.

"It's designed to promote a better image of our city," Cllr Pat Karney, chairman of Manchester's Euro 96 committee, said. "Hopefully the events will encourage visitors to come again. Also, it gives people something to do when there's no football on. We're sports-mad round here and we'll have a festival at the drop of a hat."

The National Heritage Secretary, Virginia Bottomley, also believes Euro 96 and the cultural trimmings will encourage people to participate. "The arts, like sport," she said, "speak an international language. They attract visitors to the country from all over the world - visitors who, this June, will be able to take advantage of an unprecedented range of things to enjoy.

"Above all, the important thing about the events taking place in this 'Glorious June' is the inspiration they will give for getting people to take part themselves."