Preparing the summit

PAUL KAIHLA June 13 1988

Preparing the summit

PAUL KAIHLA June 13 1988

Preparing the summit


Last week, on a makeshift platform in a 614-acre gravel parking lot across the street from the shimmering, glasswalled Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney unfurled a special red-white-andblue flag. The June 1 ceremony launched the construction of Summit Square, a $1.25-million media hospitality centre that will provide free food and drinks to 3,000 visiting journalists for four days while Mulroney plays host to leaders of the six richest democratic nations at the 1988 economic summit.* By the end of next week—in the space of just 17 days—workmen are to transform the dusty lot into a tent-filled park featuring more than 80 birch and pine trees, a 12-foot waterfall, a 24-hour licensed lounge with live entertainment, and seating for 1,700 people. With Toronto Mayor Arthur Eggleton and Metropoli-

*Mulroney’s guests: U.S. President Ronald Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, French President François Mitterrand, Italian Prime Minister Ciriaco De Mita and Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, along with European Community President Jacques Delors.

tan Toronto chairman Dennis Flynn at his side, Mulroney declared, “The world will see via the summit a side of Toronto and Canada they have never seen before.”

As construction crews began hauling the first of 300 truckloads of crushed concrete to the site for landfill, preparations for the June 19 to 21 summit accelerated in government offices, police departments and foreign chancelleries.

For the 14th annual economic summit, Sylvia Ostry, Canadian ambassador for multilateral trade negotiations and Mulroney’s personal representative for the summit, was preparing the agenda for 71/2 hours of formal talks, which will be simultaneously translated into five languages. Inside the convention centre, where the leaders will hold working meetings, workmen were readying the

summit’s communications nerve centre.

Underlying the elaborate preparations was the desire of civic boosters to impress upon the West’s leaders and opinion-makers that Toronto would be an ideal location for the 1996 Olympics. Said Eggleton: “People will find that there is a great coming together of different cultures in Toronto, and that is what the Olympics is all about.”

The summit will be an important test of Toronto’s capacity to cope with a large interz national event. The 5 leaders will bring their I foreign and finance I ministers and staff § members, for a total of about 1,500 delegates, in addition to the journalists and media technicians. U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who plans to bring 400 support staff, will have the largest delegation, while British Prime Minister Margaret

Thatcher, with about 50 delegates, will have one of the smallest. The Summit Management Office, the department of external affairs division that is organizing the summit under the direction of the Prime Minister’s Office, is increasing its staff of 100 to 700, plus 300 volunteers, for the summit. The defence department is supplying 700 personnel to chauffeur delegates and drive shuttle buses from the convention centre to six summit hotels. Said Barbara Eastman, director of Summit Square planning; “The whole approach to our preparations is to get across what an honor it is to host the summit.”

For its part, the RCMP is directing a $6-million summit security operation that will deploy 3,000 officers from its own ranks, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Ontario Provincial Police, the Metropolitan Toronto Police and regional forces.

Precautions against potential terrorist attacks include the construction of a canopy over the convention centre’s main entrance to obstruct the line of sight for any snipers. Said Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Robert Guay: “If one of the leaders wants to jog, someone from the force will jog outside with them.

We will be just like ants—everywhere.”

The RCMP considers Reagan and Thatcher to be the most likely terrorist targets. The Irish Republican Army has claimed responsibility for previous attempts on Thatcher’s life in 1984, and extremist Iranian groups have targeted the U.S. President. At the 1986 Tokyo summit, Japan’s radical Middle Core Faction fired five homemade rockets into the downtown core. Last week, a senior CSIS official told Maclean's that the RCMP has begun checking car rental agency lists and scrutinizing the records for people with Japanese-, Iranianand Irish-sounding names. Said Metropolitan Toronto Police Staff-Supt. Bernard Nadeau: “There have been no threats, but precautions must be taken.”

Those precautions mean that Toronto residents will have little opportunity to see the leaders. Traffic will be temporarily diverted away from the routes that the leaders take through the city. Pedestrians may have a chance to see

the leaders from a distance during the outdoor welcoming ceremonies at city hall on June 19, a Sunday, but surrounding streets will be closed to traffic for 12 hours, and police sharpshooters will watch from nearby rooftops. Sections of downtown Front Street facing the Royal York Hotel, where Reagan is staying, and the convention centre will be closed to vehicles and pedestrians for up to five days.

There will also be heavy security at the official dinners that are being held at several Toronto locations. Health in-

spectors will take food samples from each dish so that laboratory tests can be done later if anyone suffers from food poisoning. Said Danny Tam, head chef at the University of Toronto’s Hart House, a campus cultural and recreation centre that will host dinners for the leaders, finance ministers and foreign ministers in three different rooms on June 20: “I will probably have more security in my kitchen than staff.” Tam, who plans to prepare a five-course menu, must pass all food deliveries through security officers for inspection. Added Tam: “They will check it before I get it because maybe somebody will hollow out a watermelon and put in dynamite.”

At the convention centre, the summit

meetings will take place in three rooms on the windowless lower level, which organizers call “the red zone” because of its high-security designation. The centre is undergoing a $4-million renovation for the event. There will be 1,000 telephones, and, to accommodate 2,000 radio and television journalists and technicians, the CBC is preparing a broadcast centre capable of handling 17 transmissions at once. Said Joan Walters, consultant to the Summit Management Office: “It is the first time in 14 years that a summit has been able to house the meeting area, the media facility and the delegation offices under one roof.”

Indeed, the CBC’s plans for the Toronto summit are far more ambitious than those of host broadcasters at previous summits. The network will provide a live feed of the major summit events, such as the welcoming ceremony at city hall, to 50 different networks, including the three major American networks, CBS, NBC and ABC. Foreign and domestic stations can use those feeds and augment them with their own interviews and commentary. Japan’s public television network, NHK, plans to broadcast from Toronto 24 hours a day during the summit.

Meanwhile, hotels are importing special foods to make the leaders feel at home. The King Edward Hotel, where the British delegation is staying, has ordered Royal Crown Derby china for Thatcher’s afternoon teas, But the hotel has been unable to get Malvern mineral water, Thatcher’s favorite, through Canada Customs because it has not been tested by federal authorities. The Sutton Place Hotel, where the German delegation is staying, has laid in Heppinger mineral water and Rhine Pfalz wine for West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Despite the detailed arrangements, many observers say that the summit will be low-key and businesslike. Said Hans Gerhardt, general manager of Sutton Place: “Everybody anticipated people spending big bucks eating and drinking. But it is going to be very strenuous on the delegations. People may have a good bottle of wine, but certainly not five martinis.” But for Toronto’s civic leaders anxious to promote their Olympic bid, even a low-key summit provides a chance to show off the city to thousands of influential visitors.