Media to get limited access to G8

Last year’s G8 summit in Genoa erupted in riots

Most of the 2,000 journalists covering the G8 World Leaders’ Summit this month face being frozen out of the action following last year’s much-publicised riots in Genoa.

This year’s host country, Canada, has decided to hold the event in a remote hotel complex, the Delta, at the luxury holiday complex of Kananaskis Village in the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, 100 kilometres from the nearest city, Calgary. The complex has spectacular views of the mountains and includes a conference centre, shops and a pub.

Ministers argue that the combined threat from terrorists and protesters makes it impossible to organise the G8 in an urban setting and that the remote venue will bring it back to its original ethos of an informal retreat.

But Canadian Prime Minister Jean ChrŽtien is also concerned by the way the media coverage of last year’s event focused on the riots. As one Canadian official commented: ‘The PM referred to the same burning car which featured again and again in the international media.’

Because the Delta has only 321 rooms, each G8 delegation will be limited to a maximum of 25 on the site itself. While a limited pool press presence of up to 150 will be accommodated in a nearby lodge in the complex with internet access, they will mainly be TV crews and photographers.

The rest of the press, predominantly the reporters, will be based in the Telus convention centre in downtown Calgary, an hour’s drive from the G8. They will be unable to visit Kananaskis which will be closed to the public for the duration of the 30-hour £60m event on 26/27 June. They will only be in contact with their respective national leaders’ delegations via teleconferencing which organisers say will be "of broadcast quality".

Some of the leaders may however return to Calgary for a final press conference which will be held in the conference ballroom where seating for 580 has been arranged.

Delegate press officers will also be based in the centre where separate working areas and national media rooms are being created and the Canadians are laying on "media liaison officers" who will be journalism students or from PR firms.

The press centre, however, is likely to be a magnet for protesters who will also be barred from the G8 site itself and the organisers are anticipating that any demonstrations will therefore take place in downtown Calgary.

A further complication is that the centre is no-smoking, meaning that many of the world’s media will either just flout Canada’s notoriously PC rules on tobacco or be forced to take to the pavements.

And if they find the G8 short on copy, reporters can file on some of the more colourful background stories, such as the presence of seven grizzly bears around the hotel complex at Kananaskis, or the sacred Indian sites nearby which must be protected at all costs from flat-footed secret servicemen.

Michael Burton

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