Cannes is in full G20 lock-down mode, and frankly, more ghost town than glamour. While most business are closed for lack of customers, the silence of a carless Croisette is amazing. But Cannes cannot be without its publicity stunts, and accordingly, just as the cortege of the Chinese president Hu Jintao passed on its way to the Gray d’Albion, two Himalayan acrobats suspended themselves from the train station to yell “Free Tibet!” …forcing the police to play spiderman to get them down.
The day started at 9am with a Japanese Buddhist monk at the rue Buttura check point, pounding a steady beat on his drum to echo the bombing of Hiroshima. He tranced and stayed there from 9am to 6pm, the relentless beat driving the police crazy. His determination finally won them over, however, and they even offered him food and water in the afternoon (which he refused). At 6pm he finally stopped and walked away, and the police took out their earplugs.
The colossal Chinese delegation has taken all 200 rooms at the Grey d’Albion, and the Chinese security team banned everyone from the surrounding streets, resident or non. Another problem: people actually live in the apartments across from the hotel, so the delegation has strongly (but politely) requested that the neighbors absent themselves from their balconies, especially if they are wearing robes (?!).
The pomp and circumstance is intense, but leave it to the Germans to cut through the nonsense: Even though Angela Merkel is staying at the Majestic, right across from the Palais, protocol decrees that she must arrive by limo. She refused the car and marched straight down the driveway, with her obedient entourage turning as one and marching right behind her.
A bit pomp-deprived, however, is the surprise invitee, Georges Papandreou, the Prime Minister of Greece, who is not exactly the bienvenue. He was met by only by one G20 representative, and lead into the Palais… by the service entrance! No red carpet for you!
The presidential spouses were invited to the G20, but with Carla indisposed with the new baby, and Michelle Obama sending her regrets, the luster has come off the spouse program with only 8 or 9 in attendance. On the agenda: the Renoir museum, the new Bonnard museum, the Fondation Maeght, and a perfume foray in Grasse. Not clear if Joachim Sauer, Angela Merkel’s husband, will join.
And finally, Air Force One arrived at the Nice Airport this morning at dawn.
Meanwhile, at the Anti-G20 Protests up the Road…
Between the rain, the Italian border controls, and the police blocking the road into the Principality, this morning’s Cap d’Ail Anti-G20 protest against tax havens (looking at you, Monaco) was rather anti-climactic. A Twitter post characterized the gathering thus: “To pass through Cap d’Ail with 200 gendarmes in full riot gear vs 20 retiree ‘militants’… what a brilliant way to arrive in Monaco.”
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