Clashes and queues raise temperature in Copenhagen
With the clock ticking for world leaders to clinch a climate deal in Copenhagen, the last place you want to be is stuck at the back of a long queue.
But for thousands of delegates meeting in the Danish capital, that is exactly where they have spent endless hours this week.
They stood in the cold, braving the odd snow flurry, for hour after hour, waiting to be allowed into the conference centre on the edge of town where 193 countries are trying to thrash out a new deal on climate change.
Organisers said more than 45,000 people descended on a venue with a capacity for about 15,000.
Processing all those delegates, journalists and members of environmental groups took much longer than expected.
Some said they had waited for up to nine hours on Monday and Tuesday. There were reports of people in tears and heated arguments with officials.
Things improved on Wednesday after organisers said some groups could no longer attend the summit centre. But the huge crowds inside the centre meant that Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s advisors decided to hold some key meetings at his upmarket city centre hotel, a couple of miles from the venue. Brown held a flurry of meetings with world leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in the hotel.
Journalists and TV crews covering Brown’s trip have set up shop in the hotel bar because there is so little space at the official media centre, although coffee was the strongest thing on the tables. They received regular updates on the progress of the talks at Brown’s hotel, rather than at the conference centre, with a background soundtrack of soft rock classics and the coffee grinder.
Temporary metal fences around the hotel and police carrying cans of tear gas on their belts added to the vague sense of siege inside.
Locals on bikes pedalling on relatively empty streets watched as convoys of politicians guarded by police on motorbikes swept past.
The scene was far more heated at the conference centre, where police arrested 240 protesters.
Police armed with truncheons used pepper spray to keep the crowds back. Brown, who was at the centre for a meeting, cancelled plans to head back to his hotel for another briefing on the advice of his security team.
“It was a sensible precaution for his convenience and safety,” a spokesman said.