In 2002, Warsaw's mayoral candidates all competed in a game of SimCity – and the future president won

The greatest challenge of his career: Lech Kaczynski. Images: SimCity and the office of the President of Poland.

Today, this story has been doing the rounds on the internet, and made it to the top of Reddit:

It links back to a Wikipedia page entirely in Polish and with absolutely no citations, so we were, understandably, suspicious about its veracity. However, with the help of some Warsaw natives we've tracked down some news stories written about the event in 2002. This, with a pinch of salt, is what we think happened. 

In October 2002, Cenega Poland, a Polish games company, organised a competition in which the city's six mayoral candidates would put their city-planning skills to the test, by playing SimCity 3000. It gave each candidate an identical starting scenario, and a budget of 60,000 Simoleons (the SimCity currency) to play with.

Cenega modeled its imaginary city on the Polish capital. It was situated on a river, had a population of 32,700 people, an airport, a police station, and a small subway line. In the middle was a replica of the city's striking Palace of Culture building:

Image: Nnb at Wikimedia Commons.

According to Polish news site Interia, the six candidates played the game in front of 3,000 of the electorate. (Actually, most left their team of aides to play the game while they took questions from the crowd, but to be fair that's probably not a bad simulation of what being mayor is like.)

Each team started by enacting a major campaign policy, such as building police stations or roads. The exception was Janusz Piechociński of the Polish People's Party (now the country's deputy Prime Minister), who apparently started by building a zoo. One news story written at the time also claims Piechociński was wearing an "elegant helmet", which we haven't been able to verify; regrettably, no pictures of the event seem to survived in the public domain.

Janusz Piechociński in more serious times. Image: Adam Kliczek at Wikimedia commons.


At half past two, the drama kicked off. Each of the cities was hit by one of the natural disasters in the game: riots, fires, tornadoes and a UFO attack.

At the end of the game, Lech Kaczynski was the winner: by the year 2087, his bank account had swelled to 934,000 Simoleons. The loser, Janusz Olechowski, had only 432. At the time, Kaczynski modestly credited his team for the win, especially his chief of staff Michael Rogus, who claimed to have an "interest in strategic games" but had never played SimCity before.

Kaczynski would go on to win the mayoral elections in November and the Polish Presidential elections in October 2005. Sadly, he died in April 2010 when his plane crashed in Russia. 

Redditors reacted to learning about this tragedy in their own unique fashion:

Others saw the story as a good excuse for a bit of a pun-fest:

This, we're not going to lie, made CityMetric snigger. But then some people had to take it too far.

Polish news site Interia ended its story on the competition with the thought the perhaps all future politicians should try their hand at a city game before they are allowed to run real cities. There are worse ideas.

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Older people need better homes – but then, so does everybody else

Colne, Lancashire. Image: Getty.

Towards the end of last year, I started as an associate director at the Centre for Ageing Better, working particularly on our goal around safe and accessible homes. Before I arrived, Ageing Better had established some ambitious goals for this work: by 2030, we want the number of homes classed as decent to increase by a million, and by the same date to ensure that at least half of all new homes are built to be fully accessible.

We’ve all heard the statistics about the huge growth in the number of households headed by someone over 65, and the exponential growth in the number of households of people over 85. Frustratingly, this is often presented as a problem to be solved rather than a major success story of post war social and health policy. Older people, like everyone else, have ambitions for the future, opportunities to make a full contribution to their communities and to continue to work in fulfilling jobs.

It is also essential that older people, again like everyone else, should live in decent and accessible homes. In the last 50 years we have made real progress in improving the quality of our homes, but we still have a lot to do. Our new research shows that over 4 million homes across England fail to meet the government’s basic standards of decency. And a higher proportion of older people live in these homes than the population more generally, with over a million people over the age of 55 living in conditions that pose a risk to their health or safety.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to ensure all our homes meet a decent standard. A small number of homes require major and expensive remedial work, but the overwhelming majority need less than £3,000 to hit the mark. We know how to do it. We now need the political will to make it a priority. Apart from the benefits to the people living in the homes, investment of this kind is great for the economy, especially when so many of our skilled tradespeople are older. Imagine if they were part of training young people to learn these skills.


At a recent staff away day, we explored where we would ideally want to live in our later lives. This was not a stretch for me, although for some of our younger colleagues it is a long way into the future.

The point at which the conversation really took off for me was when we moved away from government definitions of decency and accessibility and began to explore the principles of what great homes for older people would be like. We agreed they needed light and space (by which we meant real space – our national obsession with number of bedrooms as opposed to space has led to us building the smallest new homes in Europe).

We agreed, too, that they needed to be as flexible as possible so that the space could be used differently as our needs change. We thought access to safe outdoor space was essential and that the homes should be digitally connected and in places that maximise the potential for social connection.

Of course, it took us just a few seconds to realise that this is true for virtually everyone. As a nation we have been dismal at moving away from three-bed boxes to thinking differently about what our homes should look like. In a world of technology and factory building, and as we build the new generation of homes we desperately need, we have a real chance to be bold.

Great, flexible homes with light and space, in the places where people want to live. Surely it’s not too much to ask?

David Orr is associate director – homes at the Centre for Ageing Better.