Tiny Malta is once again prepared to punch above its weight, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said yesterday, as Valletta was officially inaugurated as the European Capital of Culture.
Around one-fifth of Malta’s 450,000-strong population was expected to flood the streets of the historic capital for the ceremony.
“We did not have to start from scratch. We simply had to look around us and tidy up those buildings and prepare our home to welcome our visitors,” the prime minister told the opening ceremony at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, originally built as a hospital in the 16th century by the Knights of St John.
More than 140 projects and 400 events have been planned for the so-called “Valletta 2018” around three main themes: Island Stories, Future Baroque, and Voyages.
Valletta has undergone a massive transformation in the past few years, with the once-derelict capital being revived to showcase its architecture.
The European title also sparked a number of key infrastructural projects, among them a new museum of art, and a revamped Strait Street, an infamous narrow street popular with British sailors during World War II when the island was under siege.
Not everybody on the island is greeting the event with enthusiasm – many took to social media to say that Malta has no reason to celebrate as it still reels in shock after journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bomb attack in October.
The Maltese capital is sharing the role with Leeuwarden, a city in the Netherlands.
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