Sunday August 24 2014

Cardiff is ‘not ready’ for NATO

By Jan Ajwang

If you were born by 2007, then you remember the Commonwealth Heads of government meeting in Uganda. ‘We were ready for CHOGM! The Queen, all and sundry would be visiting and our lives would never be the same. We would walk on streets of tarmac; no one would go hungry because all the money of the guests would remain. The hotels would make us a destination hub and the future was going to be very bright. Our fortunes changed right?

Then, I can imagine this would be a fresh feeling if Kampala had to host the NATO summit in a few weeks yet in Cardiff, it is different. There is no gossip about where to get the next buck or deal from the summit.

I have not met one person whose uncle’s wife’s cousin is sitting on an organising committee that has already recruited an entire family or friends to smile and wave to dignitaries for quite the price! No billboards, no road works or hotels sprouting up. It is just men at work erecting barricades between roads. Now Cardiff is getting irritable especially about a long security fence of steel that has taken up part of the city.

In Uganda, somehow we would have a way of justifying the discomfort. We are going to gain even without a clue on how. Yet Cardiff is not ‘ready for NATO’. In fact he does not seem welcome, but for the people who are organising it and those who genuinely care about the opportunities such a summit brings to Wales. All the everyday man is seeing a fence that is going to be around for nearly a month! See, it is taking up time, increasing traffic, confusing the routes and has cut through the people’s Bute Park in the last days of summer.

During the summit, some schools will be closed. This is too much for a city that is always happier to host sports fans, than security freaks so the complaints are building up online.

Wales Online, reported that one local politician had asked NATO to show some respect for Cardiff, and stop treating the residents like second class citizens, by making them watch the city’s beautiful sights behind fences, taxi drivers say the routes are confusing and will make the trips more expensive for clients and work difficult for them! They are a perfect lot for Plato’s Republic, which is a far cry from Uganda where taxis and boda bodas would quickly hike prices and people are unbothered by monuments in a city.