Greatness at the Stadium

Great things happen at the City of Manchester stadium. The Commonwealth Games started it all off and occasionally Man City do something good too (at least this season).

Today I am at two events there that are about excellence. At 11am, the design for the UEFA Cup Final, which takes place in Manchester in May 2008, is unveiled. We'll have two top-flight European football clubs and their supporters in Manchester, they'll be spending in our shops, restaurants and hotels, and supporting local jobs for local people. At the same time it's a chance for us to show Manchester as an exciting international city where people work hard and play hard.  In the run-up to the Cup Final, there are all sorts of events for local people to get involved with. And the icing on the cake is that this event pulls together our love of sport with our love of culture. Football's not renowned for its aesthetics. But the designs for this Final - the posters, the tickets, the signage - are all based on paintings done by the renowned Manchester-based Liam Spencer. Liam's already held exhibitions in our art gallery, and our schoolchildren study his style during their GCSEs and A-levels so he's well known to many of us. But he showed us another side to football when he talked about the images of the stadium at night, and the colours on the pitch with the players standing out against the strong green grass and just for a moment I saw the game through an artists eyes. Denis Law was at the event and what a star. So thanks to everyone involved for starting off the road to the Final, we can't wait until May.

Then in the evening I was back again for another equally important event, an event all about equality - the Independent Living Awards organised by Breakthrough UK. Breakthrough is a successful social enterprise, helped into being by the Council 10 years ago, controlled by disabled people and over 60 per cent of their staff are disabled people. They work with individuals to encourage them to be independent, to seek employment and develop their careers, and they also work with employers to promote best practice. There are some inspirational tales told tonight and I'm honoured to be part of this evening, where they celebrate their successes.

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