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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Academics are mapping the legacy of slavery in Britain’s cities

A detail of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership map showing central Bristol. Image: LBS/UCL.

For 125 years, a statue of the 17th century slave-trader Edward Colston stood in the centre of Bristol, ostensibly to commemorate the philanthropy he’d used his blood money to fund. Then, on 7 June, Black Lives Matter protesters pulled it down and threw it into the harbour

The incident has served to shine a light on the benefits Bristol and other British cities reaped from the Atlantic slave trade. Grand houses and public buildings in London, Liverpool, Glasgow and beyond were also funded by the profits made from ferrying enslaved Africans across the ocean. But because the horrors of that trade happened elsewhere, the role it played in building modern Britain is not something we tend to discuss.

Now a team at University College London is trying to change that. The Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project is mapping every British address linked to a slave-owner. In all, its database contains 5,229 addresses, linked to 5,586 individuals (some addresses are linked to more than one slave owner; some slave owners had more than one home). 

The map is not exact. Streets have often been renumbered; for some individuals, only a city is known, not necessarily an address; and at time of writing, only around 60% of known addresses (3,294 out of 5,229) have been added to the map. But by showing how many addresses it has recorded in each area, it gives some sense of which bits of the UK benefited most from the slave trade; the blue pins, meanwhile, reflect individual addresses, which you can click for more details.

The map shows, for example, that although it’s Glasgow that’s been noisily grappling with this history of late, there were probably actually more slave owners in neighbouring Edinburgh, the centre of Scottish political and financial power.

Liverpool, as an Atlantic port, benefited far more from the trade than any other northern English city.

But the numbers were higher in Bristol and Bath; and much, much higher in and around London.

 

Other major UK cities – Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle – barely appear. Which is not to say they didn’t also benefit from the Triangular Trade (with its iron and weaponry industries, Professor David Dabydeen of Warwick University said in 2007, “Birmingham armed the slave trade”) – merely that they benefited in a less direct way.

The LBS map, researcher Rachel Lang explained via email, is “a never-ending task – we’re always adding new people to the database and finding out more about them”. Nonetheless, “The map shows broadly what we expected to find... We haven’t focused on specific areas of Britain so I think the addresses we’ve mapped so far are broadly representative.” 

The large number in London, she says, reflect its importance as a financial centre. Where more specific addresses are available, “you can see patterns that reflect the broader social geography”. The high numbers of slave-owners in Bloomsbury, for example, reflects merchants’ desire for property convenient to the City of London in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when the district was being developed. Meanwhile, “there are widows and spinsters with slave property living in suburbs and outlying villages such as Chelsea and Hampstead. Country villas surround London.” 


“What we perhaps didn’t expect to see was that no areas are entirely without slave owners,” Lang adds. “They are everywhere from the Orkney Islands to Penzance. It also revealed clusters in unexpected places – around Inverness and Cromarty, for example, and the Isle of Wight.” No area of Britain was entirely free of links to the slave trade.

 You can explore the map here.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

All images courtesy of LBS/UCL