Featured Content, Daily Diary:
Jacob Young, June 27, 2002
The second and final day was the highlight of my experience. Unexpectedly, half of the G8 graced the media centre with their presence. Many commentators were disappointed - they had traveled very far but were still denied direct access to the decision-makers. As if to respond to these mounting complaints, several heads of state appeared at the media centre during the closing hours of the summit. The unprecedented peace in the streets made 'Canada's largest ever security operation' excessive and therefore a scribbled photocopy announced that the leaders would come to us.
President Jacques Chirac of France addressed the media with charm. There are things that happen during these press conferences that are lost to the television viewers at home. For instance, the playful exchange between the President and a young reporter or the friendly conversations and handshakes exchanged by the president and the media corps. Mr. Chirac performs like a gentleman but relishes the role of an exalted patriarch.
In another adjacent briefing hall I hear from the heads of state from Spain (President Aznar López), South Africa, Algeria and Senegal. Later that evening I watched Junichiro Koizumi declare the accomplishments of Japan at this forum of power.
From this perspective, the criticism that this was one of the least transparent G8 summits ever seems overblown. In a flurry I heard from six of the world's most powerful men who described their opinion on the summit's outcome - in person. My sense of privilege of being in those briefings outweighed any indignation from journalists being excluded during the summit's opening day. Two days was very short for a summit with a big agenda, and the decision to hide the leaders in Kananaskis for a day might be forgiven.
My exposure to summitry and political power in Calgary has left me with enduring memories and ideas. One memory will be the awe I felt in the presence of decision-makers. Men in black suits descended from the sky and discussed the future of a continent. They were immune from the jet-lag of crossing oceans and efficiently addressed all the world's ills while ignoring the mountainous beauty that folded around them.
But these were not Gods. They had risen to the top of the hierarchy of their respective country but they still needed to come back to Earth for reaffirmation. The coveted NEPAD plan has faults, Koizumi did look a bit jet-lagged, and Chretien admitted that he shared a beer with Blair while admiring the Rockies. More importantly, these emperors eventually scurried back to the media to seek approval. As sure as the next election, these leaders are mortal.