The coronavirus pandemic has effectively destroyed the cultural capital ambitions of two European Union cities, the port of Rijeka in Croatia and Galway in Ireland, Hungarian conservative daily Magyar Nemzet writes.
The European Capital of Culture was established in 1985 by the late Melina Mercouri (1920-1994), who was at that time the minister of culture in Greece. The former actress succeeded in having Athens as the first European Union city to hold the title in the same year.
Since 2007, the distinction is awarded to two cities every year, one from the old and one from a new EU member state.
Friderika Mike, program director of the European Capital of Culture, told Magyar Nemzet that as with all other cultural events, theirs has also become the victim of the coronavirus pandemic.
Galway may have launched one of the most ambitious projects of the year, a spectacular light installation, but essentially it has no audience at all. The organizers in both cities are now scrambling to migrate as many of the projects as possible to the digital space and also attempting to reschedule others in the hope that they can still hold them later in the year.
The event has developed into a major tourist attraction over the years, giving a significant boost to the image of the host town and, by proxy, the host country as well.
While Ireland has already had two cities featured as European Capitals of Culture — Dublin in 1991 and Cork in 2005 — the blow is especially painful for Croatia, for whom this was the first occasion to have one of its cities highlighted.
According to the latest count, Ireland has 3,447 confirmed coronavirus cases while Croatia has 963.
Title image: The countdown to the title European Capital of Culture comes to zero in Rijeka, Croatia on January 1, 2020. (source: 123RF)