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A serene night with a sense of purpose at Curium
I GOT a first sense that this was an event like no other when the buses organised to transfer all officials and guests to the opening ceremony of the Cyprus EU presidency left on time.
As a result, I missed my bus. With invitation in hand I wandered the car park of the GSP Stadium in Nicosia begging organisers to let me hitch a ride on another of the many buses leaving for the ancient amphitheatre with police escort.
Showing pity, they pointed me in the direction of Bus No. 4. I sat at the back, passing on my way the Cypriot ambassador to the EU in Brussels, the Auditor-general and the Child Commissioner, not quite sure if I would be received more as fourth estate or fifth column.
On arrival at the majestic Curium, Cypriot and British bases police lined the closed roads leading up to the amphitheatre. Inside, each guest was given a bum cushion with presidency logo which doubled up as a bag with shoulder strap, along with a transparent toaster with a sketch of the amphitheatre on it.
The welcome breeze, ancient surroundings, glowing amber of the setting sun and sound of travelling waves crashing to shore gave the evening an element of serene purpose.
Minutes before the start, the President and First Lady arrived along with the heads of the European Commission and Council and College of Commissioners. Heads didn’t really turn however until the eye-catching Danish Prime Minister turned up and walked down the archaic steps of the amphitheatre in a bright fuchsia dress, a stark yet pleasing contrast to the darker, paler, pastel colours of the 500 attendees.
The evening progressed with short speeches in between short pieces from the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra followed by a multimedia performance including visuals, poetry, dance and song.
After the show, as the near-full moon made its presence known, guests mingled with officials at the reception held just above the amphitheatre. Health Minister and potential presidential candidate for AKEL Stavros Malas could be seen chatting away all statesman-like to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Sensing an opportunity, I took my bite-size souvlaki in pitta and glass of wine as close to the Danish PM as possible in the hope she might start a conversation. She didn’t.
Some murmurs were heard that the ceremony was too long, too modern, didn’t focus enough on true Cypriot performances, offered no insight into traditional Cypriot culture.
For me, it was a well-organised event that avoided the kind of kitsch that has seen a startled Aphrodite pop out of a scallop shell. But most importantly, nothing went wrong. Even the shaky dignitaries wearing exceptionally high heels managed to keep their balance on the uneven Curium steps.
Onwards and upwards Cyprus, it’s going to be a long learning curve over the six months.