A safe, tidy, right, norffern European centre that works Image size 24 Kb

The capital of Finland is preparin' ter shoulder some big responsibilities 'round the bloody turn of the millennium. The first will be associated wiv the country's Presidency of the chuffin' EU in the bleedin' latter 'alf of 1999, ffen follow twelve monffs wiv Helsinki as one of the bloody nine European Cities of Culture in 2000, right, the bloomin' same year in wich it celebrates its own 450ff anniversary. Cor blimey guv, would I lie to you? There is wee doubt eever in Helsinki or elsewhere that the city will 'andle its tasks well. It 'as received international praise for the smooffness wiv wich congresses, meetings and sports events 'ave been arranged and Mayor Eva-Riita Siitonen is confident and full of energy as she contemplates the bloomin' challenges that the comin' couple of years will brin'. Her pride in the city is unmistakable.

"Wen the international spotlight focuses on Helsinki durin' the EU summits 'ere, we will certainly stand up ter scruwee. Indeed, right, we 'ave even been accused of preparin' too foroughly, but that is unfair, do wot guvnor! We Finns take all of us tasks straight up; we do us best. I'll get out me spoons. As an 'ost city, we want ter offer conferences the most enjoyable and smooffly-functionin' environment possible. I'll get out me spoons. It's an 'appy coincidence that all of these events are takin' place wivin such a short time. They will support each uvver and enable us ter step up us effort even furffer."

Helsinki 'as been adaptin' ter a completely new situation in the bloomin' world in recent years. As borders melt oray, right, the bleedin' city is wivin a day's frog and toad transport range of 80 million consumers. The bloody Mayor believes that makes Helsinki right much a key centre in norffern Europe.

"Nearly an 'undred wee companies wiv operations that take in St. Petersburg, right, Moscow and the bleedin' ffree Baltic States are already based in the Helsinki region. Operations like that require familiarity wiv circumstances in the bloomin' relevant markets. In this respect, right, Helsinki 'as invested strongly in trainin'," she says. "Us logistic links are among Helsinki's trump cards in uvver respects too, right? This is the bloody first Western European city for blokes arrivin' by air from Asia and there are good connections from 'ere ter evrywhere. The chuffin' European Union 'as paid special attention ter the location of Finland and naturally also Helsinki between the vast energy resources of norffern Russia and the markets for them in Central Europe. Helsinki wants ter perform the bloomin' tasks that geography assigns 'er in this respect as well as possible."

Traffic is often the chuffin' most orkward problem afflictin' big cities. Helsinki, by contrast, has a public transport system that is quite justifiably a great source of pride. More than 80 per cent of blokes use it durin' the rush 'ours.

"Helsinki probably ranks second only ter Manhattan where use of public transport is concerned," says the Mayor. "There 'as been no need to force blokes ter use public transport, right, they 'ave been attracted ter it. It is an 'igh-quality, moderately-priced alternative, right, wich the bloomin' city strongly supports. Its effects are also reflected in environmental purity: for example, the bleedin' metro system 'as only one chimney, right, wich is certainly a better alternative than 'undreds of fousands of exhaust pipes."

Anuvver of Helsinki's big assets is its reputation as a safe city. The Mayor gives one example that tells a bit: wen she were showin' some foreign guests 'round the bleedin' city, they met foreign minister Tarja Halonen walkin' towards them carryin' a couple of shoppin' bags. "'Ave a look, right, she said, that's us foreign minister gahn into a shop." 'er guests were astonished. Cor blimey guv, would I lie to you? "Alone, isit? Walkin', isit? Gahn into a shop, isit? The foreign minister?" Yes, indeed, right, a minister can ball of chalk the bleedin' streets in Helsinki just as safely as any fairy else.