Wales

Cardiff Champions League final 2017 festival kicks off

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Media captionChampions League: James Bond-esque arrival for trophy

The four-day Champions League final festival in Cardiff is under way.

Gareth Bale's Real Madrid will play Juventus at the National Stadium of Wales at 19:45 BST on Saturday, with 170,000 people expected in the city.

Some road closures and extra security measures began on Thursday morning, ahead of the women's final.

First Minister Carwyn Jones opened the festival at Cardiff Bay at 11:00 after the arrival of the trophies.

In the women's final at Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday night, Lyon beat Paris Saint-Germain 7-6 on penalties in front of a crowd of almost 22,500.

Speaking as he opened the festival, Mr Jones said "people would have laughed 15 years ago" if someone had said Cardiff and Wales would have the ability to host the Champions League final.

However, Mr Jones would not be drawn on if he would be supporting hometown boy Bale and said he would be "neutral" on the day.

Lead organiser, the Football Association of Wales, called what will follow the "biggest free party the city has ever seen".

"I'm looking forward to the next four days, we want to give people a great time," Mr Jones added.

"This is up there at the top - it's the biggest sporting event in the world."

While he admitted road closures would impact on people, Mr Jones said security of the fans was paramount.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Two of Wales' all-time great strikers, John Charles and Ian Rush, have both played for Juventus

Wales legend and former Juventus striker Ian Rush arrived in the bay by boat with the coveted men's and women's trophies before being greeted by the first minister on the the floating pitch.

He said: "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity. To have it in Cardiff is amazing.

"We had a great 2016 Euros, absolutely amazing. This now takes it to the next level. When everyone goes back Sunday, Wales will be on the map worldwide."

Rush described it as "a dream final" - with both himself and another Welsh legend, John Charles, having played for Juventus and Bale representing Real Madrid - the team former Wales manager John Toshack used to coach.

He said he felt the Italian giants would edge the final.

Image caption First Minister Carwyn Jones and Welsh legend Ian Rush with the trophy

The official opening triggers events and free performances by host artists, DJs and bands each day.

Extra security arrangements in Cardiff have also begun in earnest, with police saying there will be will be 6,500 deployments, including 550 armed officers, between Thursday and Sunday.

And the first of the phased road closures for the Champions League events came into force in Cardiff from 00:01 BST on Thursday.

Cowbridge Road East was closed between Lower Cathedral Road and Westgate Street, at the south east corner of Bute Park, on Wednesday and will remain so until 06:00 on Monday.

Lloyd George Avenue will be shut from Callaghan Square to Cardiff Bay, with further closures around Bute Place, from Thursday morning until 22:00 on Sunday.

Cardiff council has brought forward the planned road closure of Castle Street, from the North Road junction to Westgate Street, by 12 hours to run from 12:00 on Friday.

Wider road closures in the Welsh capital will run from 00:01 on Saturday until 03:30 on Sunday.

Image copyright FAW

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