HUNDREDS of protesters are expected to greet politicians from the world's most powerful countries as they arrive in Sheffield tomorrow for a major international summit.
The justice and home affairs ministers of eight of the world's leading nations will be discussing the "war on terror", international crime and helping Africa tackle corruption at the city summit, which runs until Friday.
More than 500 people, including around 200 delegates and officials from the G8 group of countries, and 150 of the world's media will be staying in Sheffield, putting the city firmly in the global spotlight.
Campaign groups are also hoping that protesters will make their voice heard on issues from tackling poverty in the developing world to the Iraq war. Security concerns have led to road closures, and other G8 conferences have been marred by violence.
But city leaders are hoping the event will pass off peacefully and showcase Sheffield to the world.
The G8 is made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain and America.
The European Commission vice-president responsible for security is also coming along with the justice minister of Luxembourg, which currently holds the presidency of the European Council. They will be welcomed to Sheffield at a reception at the Winter Garden and a meal at the Millennium Galleries on Wednesday. Ministers will then stay and hold their main meeting at the Marriott Hotel in Nether Edge, and attend a gala dinner at Cutlers Hall on Thursday.
The chief executive of Sheffield council, Bob Kerslake, said: "It is a big event, it showcases Sheffield. We want and hope it will go peacefully and think it will raise Sheffield's standing."
He said preparations were "going to plan" and he had confidence in security arrangements after months of work with the Home Office – which chose Sheffield to host the meeting when local MP David Blunkett was Home Secretary.
But protester Alan Kenny, of the Sheffield Stop the War Coalition, said G8 ministers were not welcome and expressed hope that hundreds of people would take part in demonstrations during the summit.
"We shouldn't be welcoming them with open arms and we also want to put forward our positive agenda, which is based on peace and justice. Quite clearly, the war on terror has made the world a much more unstable place," said Mr Kenny.
Under police plans, protestors will be allowed inside exclusion zones in Sheffield for the G8 summit. But police also want to invoke powers that allow them to ban marches and restrict public gatherings.
Any sporadic protests will be dealt with by senior officers on duty, while leave has been cancelled and colleagues from several other forces have been called in to assist.
As part of the preparations, Sheffield Council has been brightening up the city centre by the use of floral displays and ensuring the area is as clean as possible – although the Government is paying for the conference venues and most of the policing.
Young people are also playing a role in welcoming the G8 to Sheffield, pupils from Meadowhead and Tapton Schools designing Flower Power, a massive sculpture to celebrate the visit as well as providing a focal point for this year's Sheffield Children's Festival. It is being housed in the Winter Garden.
A Zimbabwean dance group will dance with students from Fir Vale school at the reception, linking in with one of the overriding themes of the G8, Africa. Tapton junior choir will sing two songs, Can You Hear Me, with sign language, followed by the African song Nsana Censele, with the refrain "smiling and laughing for Africa".
Home Secretary Charles Clarke said he was "absolutely delighted" Sheffield was hosting the meeting and hoped local people would see it as a positive event.
Mr Clarke acknowledged there were concerns about the level of security for the meeting but was confident police had got the balance right.
"I don't think they have been over-cautious," said Mr Clarke. "Security is a measure of modern life now particularly when you have interior ministers from other countries."
The Home Secretary revealed trouble was not expected but warned that while people should be allowed to protest, they should do so in an "orderly way".
Mr Clarke added anti-poverty campaigners would be better off protesting at the G8 leaders' summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.
"The role we have as interior ministers to fight poverty is to ensure good governance and absence of corruption," he said.
Mr Clarke said the G8, under Britain's presidency, had shown clear commitment to tackle poverty with an agreement to cancel the debt of some of the world's poorest countries.
But decisions at the Sheffield meeting could be reached on tackling organised crime, people trafficking, drugs, terrorism and stronger protection for children from Internet-based paedophilia. Ministers will also hear from the head of Britain's security service and the boss of Interpol, the international police organisation.
A delicious GAla dinner... or a bowl of rice with campaigners
William Green THEY may come from around the world and enjoy dishes from sushi to sauerkraut, but G8 Ministers will get the best of British when they sit down for a gala dinner in Sheffield.
Yorkshire pudding, roast beef and roast potatoes will be on the menu at Cutlers Hall on Thursday evening. And the mouth-watering main course will be followed up by a summer pudding, with a pledge from the Home Office – which has agreed the menu – that all the food has been locally produced.
But Make Poverty History activists want the politicians to forego their dinner for a bowl of rice with local people.
They want them to show they are serious about tackling poverty by trying the kind of dinner billions of people around the world eat every night.
Campaigner Chris Malins said: "We don't know if the Ministers will come, but it would be fantastic if they did.
"There will be hundreds of local people there – it's going to be like a big picnic on Devonshire Green, where everyone's there to say 'enough is enough, it's time to do something about this'."