As anyone who watched the news was no doubt aware, this past weekend Brisbane played host to the G20 summit; more than likely the biggest gathering of important world leaders that you can get. The news probably didn’t give you an account of how it affected people on the ground though, so here’s how things happened from my point of view:
I arrived in Brisbane on a greyhound bus at the Roma street transit centre, which was full of police, and started on the short walk to the Base Embassy where I was staying. Following on from the further police presence I saw leading to, and around, King George square, the security posted outside my hostel was also rather immense. Technically it was there to guard the Hilton a mere two doors down, but it covered just about half of the block. To get to my hostel I even had to walk past a “Pedestrians Use Other Footpath” sign, which made me feel both very cheeky, and very important at the same time. Sometime later I also found out that apparently Putin himself was staying next door, but I bet he didn’t have a picture of Morgan Freeman telling him to wash up in the kitchen.
As well as the presence of both the Queensland Police and S.E.S. (State Emergency Service), barriers were also in place along certain roads, such as Adelaide Street between King George Square and Queen Street Mall, to make sure that pedestrians could only cross the road at specified points. Or in the case of Saturday afternoon and evening, not at all. This road was being used by the various motorcades as they were leaving the convention centre, the main location of the summit, which lies just across the river on Brisbane’s South Bank.
Not only was the whole road blocked off from river to river, but even the police and S.E.S. officers guarding it didn’t know exactly when and which motorcades would be coming through. Apparently this was a security precaution, but I reckon it was just the politicians being as awkward as possible, you know what they can be like. I arrived at about six in the evening and had to wait an hour for the rest of my two minute journey back to the hostel. This could have been worse however, as I heard someone mention it had been closed since half past three, and there were others waiting unable to get to work, and therefore not getting paid.
There were some making the most of it however, including a street performer who came to entertain us, but who was largely ignored, and another bystander trying to get the two sides of the road to compete in a mexican wave competition. He didn’t get much response either, but fair play to him for trying.
And to be fair it’s not like all this waiting was for nothing. I did see two motorcades coming from the convention centre, flying the flags of Belgium and Japan, which each consisted of two police motorcycles, a couple of limousines and minibuses, followed by two more police cars. Somewhat later, this time headed in the other direction, was the U.S. presidential motorcade.
I actually forget how many vehicles it comprised of, but at least three of the U.S.’s own limos, and he vehicles in front were probably a full minute ahead of those at the rear. No idea if Obama was inside it or if it always has that much security, but either way I can only hope that something that size, going back to where most others seemed to be leaving, was for more than just someone leaving behind their favourite pen. In fact for all the disruptions it caused, I hope at least the summit achieved something that will benefit us ordinary citizens to make up for it.
Whilst this massive precaution was at least understandable though, it was the closure of an intersection on Sunday night that had people baffled. At the corner of George and Elizabeth Streets, a police car drove up and stopped to announce that no cars could continue, and no-one could even cross the road.
This also included the other police officers who were there by coincidence, and were stopped on their way to get some dinner. So strict was this closure that one woman who even made it across the street, was told to go back to the other side, and yet we could see people crossing just as always at the other end of the block. It was reopened not long after with nothing occurring that could warrant such a closure in the first place, save a motorcade going past the next intersection at which people were allowed to cross. I’m sure there was a reason for this closure somewhere, but have no idea what it was.
That said, there was more to the G20 that road closures and a heavy presence on the streets; cultural celebrations were also going on, which included street musicians all throughout the Queens Street Mall. By far the most impressive had to be Colour Me Brisbane though, in which old buildings and modern skyscrapers alike were decorated with coloured lights after sunset. More than this, there was also an interactive desk located on the South Bank from which members of the public could control the lights illuminating the city centre.
This was just the start however, as the Treasury hotel was also decorated with a looped video display depicting the history of Brisbane. At least I think it was the history of Brisbane, but it was very impressive nonetheless.