Liverpool was named as the European capital of culture for 2008, beating a hotly tipped joint bid from Newcastle and Gateshead. The other bids defeated by the Merseyside city were from Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff and Oxford. The news, announced by the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, was greeted by scenes of jubilation in the winning city and disappointment in the runner-up cities.
Antony Freud, general director of the Cardiff-based Welsh National Opera said, "While we must acknowledge our disappointment that Cardiff was not the overall winner, we are delighted that we will be involved in Liverpool's celebrations in 2008. The UK as a whole will benefit enormously from the creative attractions which Liverpool will be offering as part of the 2008 celebrations, and [we] will be proud to be a part of it."
Jowell said the competition to choose the city had been "fantastic" and all the bids had been of the highest standard. Liverpool, which will now hope to reap the benefits and the image change Glasgow enjoyed when it won the title in 1990, reacted with delight to the nomination
As the decision was announced live on TV, fireworks and streamers erupted at the Empire Theatre, where Liverpool's bid team had gathered to hear the announcement. After wild cheering and applause, Sir Bob Scott, who led the Liverpool bid, said: "For the first time for too long, Liverpool will represent Great Britain and we will be the voice of Great Britain in 2008, when hopefully Liverpool will be the greatest capital of culture that has ever been seen." Councillor Mike Storey, leader of Liverpool city council, said: "This is like Liverpool winning the Champions League, Everton winning the double and the Beatles reforming all on the same day - and Steve Spielberg coming to the city to make a Hollywood blockbuster about it.
"This decision means so much to the city. It gives us the opportunity to bring real change for the better.
"This is a day for the people of Liverpool to celebrate. We are all winners today."
Louise Ellman, the Labor MP for Liverpool Riverside, said: "This is a magnificent boost for Liverpool but it is also a challenge. We must use this opportunity to make the arts the centre of our regeneration as a top class European city." EU member states take turns to nominate a city to hold the title. An expert panel chaired by former Royal Opera House chief Sir Jeremy Isaacs weighed up the rival merits of the shortlist of six.
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