G7: Taormina residents hope for benefits for their city

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dpa, the 05/26/2017 at 19:48 Modified the 05/26/2017 at 19:48
The ancient Greek theater in the city of Taormina, Italy, during the G7 summit, May 26, 2017 / AFP

For months they have been waiting for the event, they have endured the inconvenience linked to the preparations for this global meeting: the inhabitants of Taormina, in Sicily, welcomed with relief the opening of the G7, with the hope of positive repercussions for their city.

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"We can't wait for this to end, we can do more, especially since with such events there are always risks", confides to AFP Giovanna Corvaia, who works in Taormina as a caregiver.

A technician prepares a ceremony in the ancient Greek theater in the city of Taormina, Italy, during the G7 summit, May 26, 2017 / AFP / Archives

"First there was the work, then the implementation of controls but finally we get used to it", adds this Sicilian of 64 years old while boarding the bus which is about to climb the rocky outcrop on which the city is perched.

For months, the safety device planned for the G7 has been ramping up to reach its maximum during the two days that the summit lasts.

It is organized in concentric circles, the “red zone” where the hotels and meeting places of heads of state are located, corresponding to the maximum level of security.

As in airports, metal detector gates have been installed and you have to show your identity that you are a resident or a journalist to access the site.

"We don't recognize the city, the streets are deserted and most of the shops are closed," says Antonella Calopardo, who works in one of the hotels chosen to host the delegations.

Some of the 11,000 inhabitants who usually have Taormina preferred to leave the city for a few days, "while things calm down," said a municipal police officer.

The very rare journalists, out of the 4,000 accredited, authorized to walk the streets of the city all note the same thing: in the city everyone wears a badge around their neck, even the children. According to the letter of the badge one has access to such or such zone. But apart from a few vendors in the stores, very few residents are in sight.

Some 7,000 men - soldiers, riflemen, police - dozens of armored vehicles, helicopters, naval stars, are mobilized to protect the city from land, sky or sea.

"It is true that all this is a bit tedious but Taormina is in front of the world for 48 hours, it is worth a few sacrifices," admits Luigi Scaffidi, 62, who runs a business in the city center.

"We hope that the event will encourage tourists to come and that the economic benefits will compensate for the losses recorded by some of us," he added. The city, which lives mainly from tourism, was closed to all visitors well before the start of the summit, to the chagrin of traders.

Located at the foot of Taormina hill, the municipality of Giardini Naxos suffered less from security measures, even if the patrols of armed soldiers remind the presence of the G7.

Chosen to host the main anti-G7 demonstration on Saturday, it will be placed under close surveillance and some traders, dreading possible overflows, have preferred to protect their windows with boards or cardboard.

"We are afraid that the procession, which is announced as peaceful, will be infiltrated by thugs so we take our precautions," said one of them.

The organizers of this anti-globalist parade, authorized by the prefecture, announced 3 to 4,000 people in this procession.

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