OPEC moves from grey to sparkling white

November 20, 2009

For more than four decades, OPEC occupied a grey building on the banks of the Danube Canal, a premises with which the press became wearily familiar during long nights of waiting for the ministers to agree to raise, lower or maintain oil output.
The old headquarters at Obere Donaustrasse 93 will be closed down from 1630 GMT on Nov. 25 and the organization is moving into its new Secretariat at Helferstorferstrasse 17 in Vienna’s first district.
OPEC hasn’t disclosed the cost of its new building, which is near the old stock exchange in a busy part of Vienna. Having acquired new members Angola and Ecuador and often inviting non-menbers to its meetings, the group needs more space.
The new and sparkly white building doesn’t have many windows and looks as if it could be short of parking space, but presumably OPEC has made arrangements that will avoid a line of black Mercs –- generally the oil ministers’ favoured mode of transport – backing up as they try to drop off their delegates.
Reporters got to know the old building, known among the local press pack as The Dump, when working around the logistical challenges it presented to newsgathering. One spot, right by the door, was coveted as it was the best place to catch a minister at the end of the meeting to confirm OPEC’s decision. The downside was having to stand there for hours, sustained only by coffee from the vending machine brought by a colleague.
For years, when entering the conference room for the pre-meeting news conference, indecorously known as the gang bang, they negotiated a tiny opening at the head of the horseshoe-shaped ministerial table. They then squeezed their way through, together with cameramen and photographers, to yell out questions at the ministers -– an experience closer to playing rugby than reporting.
To get to the conference room, they ran up four flights of stairs in a herd that sometimes resulted in reporters falling over or getting whacked by a camera.
Perhaps in the new premises, OPEC has made things even more of a challenge for the press, such as introducing Indiana Jones-style trapdoors and gigantic rolling rocks. Or maybe there will be a shorter flight of stairs and a wider gap, to facilitate news gathering?

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