Wednesday, 22 October 2003

21 Hour Tourism

Canberra's a quiet spot. OK, some people would call it "dead". It's a large country town with delusions of grandeur, and the legislation to back them up.

It's one of the few capital cities where there are prime-time adverts for sheep-dip. (I wish I was joking).

So having the leader of the world's most powerful nation, and the leader of the world's most populated one, coming in within hours of one another is a little bit out of the ordinary.

Air Force One just landed a few minutes ago (I heard the approach, I'm near the airport), F-18s are still buzzing around keeping the flies away, and by now the Bushes should be safely housed in the US Embassy - with a fine view of Parliament House, the Lodge (where the PM resides when he's in Canberra), and much of the Embassy precinct.

I hope he has a good night's sleep. He'll need it.

Canberra "International" Airport currently has 2 C-5A Galaxies, and at least one C-17 Globemaster III sitting on the tarmac, in addition to the 747 that the President and entourage flew in on.

Given that the largest aircraft ever to fly in here before was 1 C-5A a few years ago (which severely damaged the place), and a Thai Airways DC-10 that landed here a few months ago, they must have done some serious upgrading. The place is about the same size as the one in Bremen, Germany. Rather smaller than Leeds-Bradford in the UK. Cleveland, Ohio's is comparatively huge. As I said, Canberra's a country town.

Getting to work tomorrow is going to be problematical: the firm I work for is in the National Press Club building (Organised Chaos there today, 10 Busloads of Journalists came in at Lunchtime, plus some fairly large Groundstations for Satcoms). And that's in the precinct known as the "Parliamentary Triangle". Which will be closed off for much of the day. A few hundred metres away is Old Parliament House, whose back-lawn has been reserved for anti-Bush demonstrators. Those with a season-ticket can go back the next day and protest against the Chinese premier too. Given the sad state of Human Rights in China, I for one am glad that a minority at least is being consistent.

As for Journalists, they've been given access. Of a kind. There's exactly one opportunity to take photos, when the Bushes go and meet the Governor-General (the ceremonial Head-of-State). Government House is in a nice little park, so a Bus service will be provided from the Press Centre, at 8am. They should get there by 8.30. The photo-opportunity will be at 9.30, so they'll be cooling their heels for half an hour after setting up. No Bus service is provided for the return trip, they'll have to walk a few kilometres to get back to Civilisation. Bearing all their gear.

Someone's way of expressing their displeasure at the massive bias shown in reporting, no doubt.

As for Mr and Mrs Bush, they'll only be here for 21 hours, so it's unlikely I'll get to see them. Canberra's a sleepy, quiet place, but 21 hours isn't enough to see much of it. Pity.

Hopefully the Chinese Premier will get to see more of the place, but he's probably going to spend most of his time in Sydney. Most people wouldn't blame him.

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