Argentine hospitality, from popcorn trucks to prayer rooms

Updated 01 December 2018
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Argentine hospitality, from popcorn trucks to prayer rooms

  • What the signs say in English is a “quiet room” is translated into Spanish as a “sale de oracion,” and turns out to be a prayer room for local and visiting Muslim journalists

I have the feeling that, whether there are geopolitical fireworks at the G20 summit or not, the event is in for a pretty good press. The Argentine organizers have made the best of an unpromising situation and gone out of their way to keep the media happy.
Planners were faced with a big logistical problem in the early stages of preparing for the event. The chosen site for the actual summit — the Costa Seguero Center on the shores of the Rio de la Plata — was not big enough to hold both the summit leaders, with their enormous entourages and teams of “sherpa” assistants, as well as the 2,500 or so journalists attending from around the world.
They decided to split the media from the summiteers, and move the journalists to Parque Norte, a sports complex about 5 km farther upriver. Maybe there was a security element in the decision, too, with no pesky journalists to contend with on the main site in a city that has gone into lockdown for the summit.
When we were first shown the arrangements, I must admit I was disappointed. From a journalist’s point of view, these kinds of events always work best when you can mingle with the stars, grab a few words on the sidelines, and generally rub shoulders with the movers and shakers.
This is why Davos works so well: You never know who you will bump into in the rabbit runs of the Kongresshalle. So when I heard that the media in Buenos Aires were to be “banished” to Parque Norte, my heart sank. Two days of watching a big screen with one eye on a “live” feed from the center? Ho hum. It would have been much better to be at the thick of a media scrum in the summit center. But there are many compensations at Parque Norte. The facilities are mind-boggling. The main press room is about the biggest I have ever seen, an aircraft hangar of a chamber oozing the latest in bling gadgetry.
And, something not to be taken for granted in Argentina, as I have learned since I arrived a couple of days ago: The Internet works much better than it does outside the media enclave.
The organizers have promised to make leaders and their officials available at Parque by driving them up to the media hub for interviews, or by driving media down the road to the center.
Let’s see how that one works in practice, but there was a steady stream of senior Argentine politicians on parade yesterday.
What will probably go a long way to winning over the hearts and minds of the assembled scribblers are the incidental facilities at Parque Norte. You want cool VR displays in a fake jungle setting with books dangling artistically from the ceiling? You want a cafeteria serving splendid Argentine produce around the clock? You want a drinks dispenser providing local specialities on tap? How about a bright red popcorn truck?
And, this being football-crazy Argentina, you want your own dedicated media football pitch? You’ve got all these and more at Parque Norte.
It is not just the fripperies, either. Some serious thought has gone into making visiting journalists, from many different countries and cultures, as welcome and comfortable as possible. What the signs say in English is a “quiet room” is translated into Spanish as a “sale de oracion,” and turns out to be a prayer room for local and visiting Muslim journalists.
Will the world’s hard-nosed hacks be swayed by such little acts of kindness? That remains to be seen. But they will probably be less inclined to put the boot into the host nation as a result. I’m going to gauge the mood of the international media about their temporary home in Buenos Aires at an evening welcome reception, complete with tango display, and will report back.


At least one dead in multiple shooting in Dutch city of Utrecht

Updated 1 min 28 sec ago
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At least one dead in multiple shooting in Dutch city of Utrecht

  • Terrorism not ruled out
  • Shooter remains at large

DUBAI: At least one person is dead and multiple others injured in a shooting incident in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Police are not ruling out terrorism as a possible motive in the shooting that left several people “heavily injured” - the shooter remains at large. Police have erected a white tent over an area where a body appears to be lying next to a tram following reports of a shooting in the Dutch city of Utrecht, AP reported.

The Dutch anti-terror coordinator has raised the threat alert to its highest level around the central Dutch town of Utrecht following the shooting incident on a tram in the city, with the shooter still on the run. Paramilitary police have increased security at airports and other vital public infrastructure. Police have also advised schools in the area to keep their doors closed.
Anti-terror coordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg said in a statement that the “threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province,” referring to the highest level. 
“The culprit is still on the run. A terror motive cannot be excluded,” he said in a Twitter message. He called on citizens to closely follow the indications of the local police. 
Dutch police say they are looking for a least one person who might have fled by car. Counter-terrorism forces have surrounded a building where the gunman may be located, local broadcaster NOS News reported.
Spokesman Bernhard Jens did not exclude more people might be involved. 
“We want to try to catch the person responsible as soon as possible,” Jens said.

The Utrecht local government has set up a hotline to address queries about the situation. The Netherlands has one of the strictest gun laws and ownership is limited to law enforcement, hunters and target shooters.

 

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that the government is currently holding crisis talks.

Aalbersberg earlier said on Twitter that he was having “crisis consultations”, adding: “Terrorist motive not excluded. Information not yet full.”

 

Local media reports have said counter-terrorism police were seen at the scene.

“Shooting incident... Several injured people reported. Assistance started,” the Utrecht police Twitter account said. “It is a shooting incident in a tram. Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help.”

The 24 Oktoberplein is a busy Utrecht traffic junction, with a tram stop. Tram traffic was temporarily stopped due to the incident, but the trams are currently running again between Zuilenstein, Nieuwegein and IJsselstein.

(With AFP and Reuters)