This week’s Satellite challenge is a classic game of “One of these things is not like the other.”
As you’ve probably guessed, today’s satellite images come from a little beyond GTA boundaries. From top to bottom, the cities shown are Milan, Amsterdam, Chicago, Frankfurt, and Chongqing. Can you tell which of these five cities doesn’t belong in this group?
Ready to see which of these five cities is out of place in today’s group?
Just over half of you picked Chicago as today’s misfit, with Spacing reader Torontonian noting in the comments below that he singled the city out because it’s the only one pictured with a regular grid pattern layout. That said, today’s correct answer is actually Amsterdam – not because of its urban form, but because today’s other four cities share a special connection to Toronto.
Indeed, Milan, Chicago, Frankfurt, and Chongqing are all considered “sister cities” (or, formally, “Partnership cities”) of Toronto as part of its International Alliance Program. On a smaller scale, these partnerships are known as “twin towns,” but don’t confuse sister cities and twin towns with cities twinned by geographic proximity, like Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. Rather, these connections come as a reflection of networking in our globalizing world.
Toronto’s overview of its own approach to this popular practice explains that it aims to “strengthen economic, cultural, tourism, and multicultural links internationally,” with partnerships established based “on the partner and friendship city’s demographics, economic growth and similarities, GDP, and the potential for investment.” Of the city’s current Partnership cities, Chongqing has had the longest relationship – its sisterhood with Toronto began in 1986, followed by Frankfurt in 1989, Chicago in 1991, and Milan most recently in 2002. Mayors of sister cities make a point of arranging occasional family reunions – most recently, David Miller undertook a business mission to Chongqing in 2008 (covered by The Star here), following a trip to Frankfurt taken in 2004. For another family tie, Christopher Hume also touched on a bit of sibling rivalry when he noted in a column that Toronto’s loss of Expo 2015 was Milan’s gain. Meanwhile, Chicago maintains a great page detailing all of its own annual interactions with Toronto.
Today’s odd city out – Amsterdam – was actually a past sister city of Toronto, but it was not made a Partnership city when Toronto revised its designation framework for sister cities in 2005. It was, however, briefly reclassified as a “Friendship city,” and an enhanced program request to upgrade both Amsterdam and Warsaw to full Partnership city status was floated around in 2006 before ultimately being denied [PDF, page 423]. Now, it seems Amsterdam has instead lost any formal affiliation with Toronto – although I haven’t been able to find a City document covering this change, Amsterdam is no longer listed as a Friendship city on the City’s International Alliance Program page. Those cities that are listed as current Friendship cities include Warsaw, Poland; Sagamihara, Japan; Kyiv, Ukraine and, as of 2006, newly approved additions Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Quito, Ecuador.
Nonetheless, Toronto’s Amsterdam Square and Amsterdam Bridge both get their names from the city’s former sisterhood with the Netherlands’ capital. Amsterdam Square was named in 1974 when the sisterhood first began, while Amsterdam Bridge was named in 1978, when it was opened with a visit from Amsterdam’s mayor at the time, Wim Polak. Similarly, Amsterdam’s Torontobrug across the Amstel River is named after our city.
For more insight into what goes into considering such a city partnership, this 2006 City document [PDF] covers requests to establish relationships with Lisbon, Montego Bay, Monaco, and Manila. All were ultimately rejected, with geographic proximity to other sister cities, economic structure, and mismatched demographics relative to Toronto all cited as considerations. After all, sisterhood is a special bond.