Another joyful night for culture and sport in Northern Ireland
News Letter editorial of Thursday August 12 2021:
The Super Cup football game in Belfast last night was another triumph for normal, vibrant life in Northern Ireland.
Not many years ago, it was inconceivable that a major sporting event would be held in the Province.
It is almost 50 years since the Troubles reached its bleakest and most violent point in the early 1970s, but for three decades after that NI was on an unwritten blacklist for international cultural or sporting events.
They would not have contemplated allowing themselves to be based here.
It was into this millennium before even cruise ships would call into Belfast as they sailed around the British Isles.
Gradually all this has changed.
Northern Ireland is now on the tourist map as a key part of the itinerary on any tour of the UK and Ireland.
Within the last decade, NI has also become an increasingly trusted venue for big events.
The MTV awards were held here in 2011, the G8 summit in 2013, the Giro D’Italia the following year, and the Open golf in 2019.
The Super Cup game is not as prestigious as the European Cup. Even so, it is an game of international standing, and last night it was played at Windsor Park between two clubs from the world’s top leagues — Chelsea, from London, and Villarreal from Spain.
The sight of fans from those competitor teams making their way in good spirits to the stadium in south Belfast was a vivid reminder also of the slow return to normality after the almost 18-month shutdown to combat Covid — made possible by the successful rollout of vaccines.
It was another memorable evening in long, joyful history of NI returning to ordinary pleasures from the trauma of the years of conflict and the more recent dislocation caused by the pandemic.
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