Friday 14th November – Brisbane G20 Summit
Today is a public holiday in Brisbane due to the G20 and the traffic problems it causes. Ignoring this—and most other people who had foolishly left Brisbane to head to boring places like the beach—Bronwen and I drove into the city, where we promptly got stuck in traffic being held up for a motorcade. We took the first exit we could off the road we were stuck in, and ended up driving the wrong way down a very narrow single-lane one way street, and parking in a small area between two no parking zones, which might have been somewhere I was allowed to park.
Having managed to arrive—and not yet being blown up or terrorised—we walked into the CBD. We saw several motorcades and Bronwen was interviewed by Italian TV. There were police and security everywhere, snipers on rooftops, cameras and communications equipment hidden away all over the place, and every second car was a limousine with darkly tinted windows.
We had lunch at Vegorama in the Myer Centre. Despite the media reporting the place as a ghost town, there were enough people around that it didn’t look strange. It was certainly less busy than usual, but in a pleasant, uncrowded kind of way.
We walked around the CBD for a while, and then over to South Bank—where there were a few thousand more police—and around the fenced off convention centre to the Aboriginal Embassy at Musgrave Park, then back to the city again, and eventually, late in the evening, drove home. It had been a tiring and hot day, but quite exciting—vastly better than the beach and all its sharks and annoying sand.
I had been expecting Putin to arrive around eleven o’clock, but heard that he’d landed at the airport early, so I rushed back into the city—managing to drive from home to the city, and find parking, in record, semi-miraculous, time. I—along with a small group of people and a lot of police—watched Putin arrive at The Hilton. We only got the smallest glimpse of Putin himself, but it was interesting to see the heavy police presence.
I then wandered up the road to The Sofitel by accident, finding out when I got there that I had meant to go in the opposite direction to Stamford Plaza—by which time the road had been closed down and I couldn’t get back. By the use of an overpass and much detouring I eventually managed to get to Stamford Plaza, where I found a large amount of flag-waving Chinese and hundreds of police lined in up rows. I quickly realised that they had some serious security concerns about this, which made Putin’s arrival seem quite secure. However, everyone seemed quite happy when the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, arrived.
Saturday 15th November – Brisbane G20 Summit
Bronwen and I drove into the city again. We parked in the Roma Street car park, which was free for the G20. The city was split in half for hours due to Adelaide Street turning into a motorcade route. Quite often no motorcade would even use it, but it would still be closed just in case they needed to—some people had been stuck trying to cross it for two hours. We got stuck on the wrong side of it a few times, and had to walk a very long distance in the huge heat to get onto the bikeway and walk along the river to get to parliament house to see Obama leave on his way to give his speech at UQ.
It was incredibly hot, and standing next to the Perspex barricades didn’t help things, but eventually Obama left, giving us all a wave from inside his 16 ton (or so people guess—it’s a secret) car known as “the beast”. Bronwen and I rushed to Coles and bought litres of cold drink, and had some lunch.
After exhausting ourselves some more—and Bronwen has had flu all weekend which hasn’t helped—we drove up to Bronwen’s parents’ place.
We drove back to the city with Bronwen’s Dad—or at least, tried to, but Caxton Street was closed due to a motorcade, so Bronwen and her Dad walked while I tried to get to the city other ways. I managed to get close enough to the Roma Street car park that I could see it, only to be stopped by another motorcade closure and forced to turn off into another street, which also promptly turned into a motorcade blockage and I was again forced up another street. Now travelling in entirely the wrong direction back out of the city, I parked for a while in a special G20 no parking tow-away zone and went for a walk until the motorcade closure was lifted. I then rushed back to my car and rushed down to the road and rushed to the next car park… getting there just as they closed the road for a motorcade again.
Once I finally caught up with Bronwen and her Dad—having to wait for another two motorcade closures before I could walk across enough roads to get to them—we all went for a walk through the city and over to South Bank, then around QAGOMA where all the important people were having a cocktail function, and back to the city again, before driving back to Bronwen’s parents’ place.
Apparently I was on TV—Channel 7 news I think.
Sunday 16th November – Brisbane G20 Summit
I got up early and drove into town. Bronwen didn’t come as she was still sick. I parked in the free parking at the Roma Street Car Park, and made my way over the Victoria Bridge to the Cultural Centre in South Bank. I arrived around half past seven, and then spent the next couple of hours slowly baking—alternating between sitting in the shade and standing in the sun, each time a motorcade went past. A few people managed to sneak in via other routes, but I saw most of the important people’s motorcades, and while I could sometimes see through the windows, I wasn’t able to take any photographs through them, even with a polariser on. The reflections were just too bad and the windows were usually quite tinted. Both Obama and Putin’s windows are less tinted, but even then I wasn’t able to get any particularly good photos—which was a bit disappointing considering how much effort I’d put in and how hot it was.
Fortunately a few interesting people turned up to chat to, which passed the time well.
I spent the afternoon wandering around the city. It was even hotter today—temperatures reached 40°, and apparently hit 63° on some of the rooftops where the snipers were. They put up little gazebos for them on the rooftops around town, somewhat ruining their attempts to remain hidden and out of sight.
I wandered down to the Hilton, fortuitously not long before Putin arrived and left for the airport. The place was surrounded by media so I figured something must be up and went and asked them what they were waiting for, and they said Putin was arriving in ten minutes, so I waited too. I was even able to get a few photos of him.
I saw a few protests, and wandered up to Roma Street Parklands where Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, was unveiling a statue of Ghandi. The Indians there were very happy, and very loud, with lots of chanting.
I finished off the day by heading down to the Marriot just as Obama was leaving, to see how that was going. They didn’t waste any time, and started taking down the fences around the streets while I was there.