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Why Was 'Steel City' Pittsburgh Chosen For G20'

PTI September 26, 2009 9:39 IST

As leaders of the world's largest economies descended on Pittsburgh for the G20 Summit, city officials have been working overtime to promote what is known as the 'Steel City'.

Reaction was mixed when it was first announced that the Group of Twenty richest nations would be meeting in Pittsburgh.  Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has being inundated with requests to explain why Pittsburgh was chosen to host this important international financial summit.

While security issues cannot be discounted as a factor, the Mayor said Pittsburgh highlights the sustainability issues that President Barack Obama wants to showcase to world leaders.

"Right now those are unfamiliar with Pittsburgh, often times refer to it as an old town, a smokey town, a dirty town and what they'll see when they visit Pittsburgh this week is the fact that that's changed. We are now a green town, we are a clean town," he said.

The White House said it picked Pennsylvania's second largest city to showcase its recovery from the collapsed centre of the steel industry in the late 1970s to a modern city with lower than the national average unemployment, a thriving healthcare industry and that boasts of its green industries.

"I think it is a tribute to the metamorphosis we've seen in our region. If you look at Pittsburgh today in 2009 and its industrial structure and its base if industry and compare it to say 1979 and obviously it is dramatically different, " said Stu Hoffman, PNC Chief Economist.

If the economy poses some tough challenges at the conference, so does security.  Thousands of police were busy erecting security barriers along the streets around the convention centre, the site of the gathering, on the Allegheny River.

Most of the city's downtown was to be closed to traffic on Thursday and Friday, as were the city's three rivers.

As some leaders began arriving, police said 14 members of the environmental group Greenpeace were arrested on two bridges.  First, four environmental protesters rappelled off the West End Bridge over the Ohio River, dangling perilously over the water while steadying a large banner warning of "climate destruction" if world leaders don't act to control carbon dioxide emissions. 

After about two hours, the protesters climbed safely back up to the bridge deck. Police said they arrested nine in that episode.

The Phipps Conservatory is hosting a White House welcoming ceremony on Thursday night for the world leaders and then a working dinner. 

The conservatory's steel and glass building is home to one of the world's greenest gardens.  Phipps Conservatory Executive Director, Richard Piacentini, says his centre "in a lot of ways represents a lot of the transformation that has taken place in Pittsburgh."

Some of Pittsburgh's art treasures will also be in the international spotlight.  As part of her tour of the city, First Lady Michelle Obama plans to take the spouses to 'The Andy Warhol Museum', the famous artist was originally from Pittsburgh. AP