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Monday, July 24, 2000
2.6 BILLION YEN PRESS CENTER TO BE SCRAPPED
Media overwhelmed by lavish services
By SETSUKO KAMIYA and JUNKO TAKAHASHI
NAGO, Okinawa Pref. — The roughly 4,000 reporters in this subtropical prefecture have belatedly discovered they didn't need to bring anything to cover the Group of Eight summit. All they needed was their press cards.
"I wish I had known it in advance. Then I wouldn't have had to carry everything here," said Kerstin Joswig, a German reporter for Market News Service.
Inside the International Media Center, a complex of several different buildings, there are more than enough notebooks, staplers, pens, snacks and soft drinks to sustain the visiting press contingent, along with plenty of Internet-connected computers.
Other perks for the accredited reporter included shower rooms, laundry service, a post office and courier service, shoe shines and free camera repairs and film development. The press ID also bequeathed free entrance to the all-you-can eat cafeteria, which served buffet meals from 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. and was stocked with beer, wine and sake.
Although the total cost of hosting the summit was about 81 billion yen, including the G8 meetings of finance ministers and foreign ministers in Fukuoka and Miyazaki prefectures, Foreign Ministry officials said many of the press goodies were offered voluntarily by private companies. Viewing the political event as a key opportunity for publicity, some 100 companies offered their products free of charge.
The "hospitality" of the host country, although at times verging on excess, was generally welcomed by the foreign journalists, who were working against time zones to beat deadlines in different countries.
"I appreciated it because it made life much easier," said Christine Lucyk, a reporter for the National Post, a Canadian newspaper. "But security was overkilled," she said in reference to the thousands of police officers dispatched to the prefecture.
"As far as facilities were concerned, I've never seen anything like this," said Christian Losson, a French reporter from the Liberation, another newspaper. "Things were too much and too huge, but it was not bad publicity for Japan."
Rainer Traube, a TV reporter for Deutsche Welle, said that although he did think things were a bit over the top, he appreciated it. "It was overdone a little, but I can understand that it was done with good intentions," he said.
But Traube added that he felt Okinawa was the pinnacle of how summit meetings should be hosted in the future. "I don't think the summit in Italy next year should be bigger than this."
Most reporters interviewed by The Japan Times said it would have been better if everything were closer together, noting the one-hour drive required to go from their hotels to the media center.
An average of two shuttle buses ran every hour between the media's accommodation sites and the IMC, but the time and distance between them were a nuisance for the press.
The IMC's main building and cafeteria, built on a parking lot with 2.6 billion yen, was completed just about a week before the gathering began, but will be demolished after the summit.
"We feel bad about demolishing it," a Foreign Ministry official said. "But there was not enough time to build a (permanent) building because Nago was chosen to host the summit at the last minute," he said.