When it comes to hosting big events, Cardiff is repeatedly proving it can cut it.
The last few weeks alone proved that authorities in the Welsh capital have what it takes to organise and host major events, both in the middle of the city and right the way around it.
A few Fridays ago the city invited immense footfall and strain upon its infrastructure. The M4 motorway bottlenecked to the east and west as people poured into the city for live music events. At the Millennium Stadium, one of the planet’s biggest pop bands One Direction, played the first of a Friday-Saturday double header. While over at Cardiff Castle, iconic Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers played a much-hyped homecoming concert.
Excitable teens and tweens, excitable mums, slightly less excitable Dads, young families, grungey teens, 30 and 40 somethings out to relive former glories, adolescent students with bewildering Kurt Cobain T-shirts (wait, were you born when he died?): everyone came together in the Cardiff melting pot for virtually simultaneous live music concerts.
The streets hummed, in more ways than one.
At the conclusion of One Direction, crowds pounded past the castle, with the vocals of Manics’ frontman James Dean Bradfield still booming over the walls and into the city.
It felt like a momentous day and night, even before the climactic fireworks which marked the end of the Manics’ set. Lifelong memories are created on days and nights like these, however old you are (although it’s probably more likely if you’re a 6 year-old One Direction obsessive).
This isn’t something that’s happened by magic overnight. Cardiff has long enjoyed a fantastic reputation for hosting major sporting events, thanks in part to the Millennium Stadium and Cardiff Castle being located right in the heart of the city. The city’s efficiency was acknowledged by the prestigious FA Cup final and playoff finals being transplanted to Cardiff for several years while the new Wembley was being built in the 2000s.
And before the Millennium opened its doors, the National Stadium and Cardiff Arms Park had great heritage, regularly hosting major rugby and football matches. Across town, the Motorpoint Arena and its predecessor brands have hosted big name music, comedy and entertainment acts for a number of years.
Lately though, everything seems to have taken a step up. And this summer the events keep piling in.
A weekend music festival in the city’s Bute Park attracted thousands more – not that this rapidly ageing person could identify a single act.
A visit of the Queen for a lavish military ceremony at the Millennium Stadium.
A huge Euro 2016 qualification football match at Cardiff City Stadium between Wales and Belgium: another 33,000 – and what an atmosphere they created. After photographing countless football matches at the stadium over the last two years, nothing came anywhere close to this. The reverb of noise, the ocean of deep reds, a wall of sound and song and passion that at times almost appeared to keep the Belgium attack at bay by itself; the warm relations between two mutually respectful sets of supporters, the pitiless summer rain, the adopted Zombie Nation anthem, the heroic defence, the result. Tingles rippled down the back of my spine on more than one occasion.
That night I was shooting for Propaganda Photo. (See the previous post on this blog for more Bale).
After hosting a night like that, as well as having hosted the European Super Cup Final last summer, it’s little surprise that Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium is being hotly tipped as the host venue for the 2017 Champions League Final.
That same weekend, arguably the biggest logistical challenge for the city, the region and the event organisers: Velothon Wales. Cyclists numbering around 15,000 took to the closed-off roads of south Wales for the biggest ever cycling event the region has ever seen. Registration zones were set up days in advance, hotels were full to bursting once again – Belgium fans rapidly vacating; the streets just seemed unusually full. Each time I visit London I’m a little stunned by the vast number of people everywhere, but over these few days Cardiff seemed to be almost London busy.
The sun intermittently shone, smiles of cyclists were broad, the public support was generous. Again, Cardiff and south Wales and the event organisers seemed to pull it off with style. Having intensively photographed that event on behalf of Marathon-Photos (in what itself felt like a major test of endurance) in the evening when I closed my eyes I found whizzing cyclists burnt on my retina. Much like this…
— Mark Hawkins (@MHphotos_) June 14, 2015
Such events also bring a massive amount of spending power into the city of Cardiff. Traders must welcome it with open arms. Naturally, with such volumes of people comes with an element of risk too. But the police force should be credited for the lack of any significant wrongdoing.
Summer 2015 has barely begun and more events will follow: Extreme Sailing over 4 days down in Cardiff Bay this weekend, another Speedway GP at the Millennium at the start of July, Ashes cricket at the Swalec Stadium, rugby world cup warm-up matches, a number of colourful parades through the city centre.
View / buy images from Act 5 of 2014 Extreme Sailing in Cardiff.
View / buy images from Act 4 of 2015 Extreme Sailing in Cardiff.
View / buy images from 2014 Mitas British FIM Speedway Grand Prix in Cardiff.
Right now Cardiff is proving itself as one of Europe’s, if not the world’s best at consistently organising and hosting top level events. It has the facilities to match, and it’s clearer than ever that Cardiff can cut it.
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