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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Saturday, 2 March, 2002, 11:01 GMT
CHOGM diary: Kitted out in bibs
Soldiers with mine detection equipment use a golf buggy for transport
Golf buggies: Preferred means of transport
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By the BBC's Robin Lustig at the Commonwealth summit

It comes as no surprise, in these tense, post 11 September days, that there is tight security at an international summit meeting attended by more than 30 heads of government.

But I wasn't quite expecting that it would take nearly an hour, accompanied by two official escorts, to get from the grandly-named Media Centre - which in reality is simply a very large tent - to the hotel where I was to meet the foreign minister of the Maldives.

First, we were kitted out in bright yellow bibs with a large number on the front, presumably so that we could be easily identified if we tried to escape. I was number 59.

Everywhere we saw soldiers, police officers and private security men

Then we and our escorts took a ride on a neat little motorised golf buggy which would transport us to the main summit hotel along private paths lined with security men.

We went through an airport-style metal detector and X-ray check.

Then we transferred onto a special bus to take us a couple of miles up the road to another hotel. Another security check, and another motorised golf buggy, this time to take us direct to the door of the minister's suite.

Outside stood a steely-eyed security officer with an ear-piece and, in the steamy heat of a Queensland afternoon, a somewhat inappropriate tweed jacket.

Australian fighter jet
Fighter jets are patrolling the Coolum skies
Everywhere we saw soldiers, police officers and private security men.

Overhead, helicopters clattered - and, so we were reliably informed, out of sight, high in the leaden tropical sky, F-18 fighter planes of the Australian air force were out on patrol, armed with air-to-air missiles and ordered to shoot down any aircraft with no business to be there.

The interview was the easy bit. The foreign minister was charming, if guarded in what he was prepared to say.

After nearly 25 years in the job, Fathulla Jameel knows how not to rock the boat.

Getting back to the media centre, as the heavens opened and a tropical storm crashed noisily up and down the coast, was an even bigger adventure than the outward journey.

Security men, it seems, do not like heavy rain - and by the time we eventually made it back, we were very wet.

Oh yes, and the media centre was leaking too.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
"If there was a free and fair election in Zimbabwe the opposition would win"
The Queen's opening address at Commonwealth Summit
"It is our very diversity that makes the Commonwealth strong"
Conference spokesman Joel Kibazo
"The Commonwealth is split on what measures to take"
See also:

01 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Blair urges action on Zimbabwe
28 Feb 02 | Africa
Mugabe rival sues over video
06 Feb 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe's climate of fear
01 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Quick guide: The Commonwealth
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