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Toronto braces for G20 summit as media people pour in

Updated: 2010-06-24 14:41
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TORONTO - With the fourth G20 summit around the corner, Toronto, the largest city of Canada, has fully geared up for the big event which some locals expect to bring more global exposure but others blame for being too costly and inconvenient.

"G20 summit in Toronto 26-27. Prepare for significant delays," reads a message to drivers posted on a large overhead electronic billboard on the expressway linking the Pearson International Airport to downtown Toronto.

Motorcades spearheaded by police motorbikes and carrying unknown VIPs cruised through the thoroughfares from time to time, while entry ramps to some main roads are blocked by police vehicles, forcing drivers to detour.

"I've never seen so many policemen on city streets before, and I heard they spent a lot of money buying hundreds of new patrol cars just for the summit," said a local chartered van driver who didn't want to be identified, as he carefully steered his vehicle around a pile of horse excrement obviously left by some passing mounted police unit at an intersection.

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The cost of the summit, the fourth of its kind since the outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008, is expected to reach some 2 billion Canadian dollars (one Canadian dollar = 0.96 U.S. dollars), far exceeding the original budget of over 100 million Canadian dollars. More than half of it will be spent on security measures.

"This is the first time ever that a G8 summit and a G20 summit are held in one country at the same time, and we really want to make it a success," said a female staff at the International Media Center (IMC) for the G8 and G20 summits, which opened to accredited media representatives and delegates from 12:00 p.m. (1600 GMT) Wednesday.

Hundreds of journalists arrived on Wednesday afternoon at the Media Accreditation Office in the Allstream Center just opposite the IMC to get their badge in person, along with a carefully prepared media kit containing pens, a free public transit card, souvenir pins, a steel water bottle, and even a bottle of the famed Canadian maple syrup.

Many of them were then surprised to find out that the IMC is offering everyone working in there full-day free drink and snack, as well as one free hot meal every day.

"I think the Canadian hosts are really kind and considerate," said a Chinese journalist who also covered the previous G20 summit in the United States. "In Pittsburgh the hosts hardly offered anything."

The lady staff member at the IMC told Xinhua that although such hospitality is costing Toronto and Canada dearly, the city probably will reap some long-term benefit from it.

"Well, Toronto is already a well-known city in Canada and in the world, but with the successful hosting of this big event, we hope it will gain more exposure globally," she said.

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