16 November 2014

Mr Putin departs Brisbane

Walking up Elizabeth Street in Brisbane on a furnace-like Queensland Sunday during the G20 conference (16 November 2014) I spotted a collection of crowd barriers and a phalanx of motorcycle cops in the middle of the road, awaiting something important. They were outside the Hilton hotel, and a young chap with a camera nearby informed me that the officers and several dozen spectators were waiting for the departure from the hotel of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had stated that he was departing the G20 conference several hours early in order to catch a few extra hours of sleep on his way back to important business in Moscow.

After about 20 minutes of waiting in the 40-degree Brisbane heatwave, during which time the traffic backed up down the length of Elizabeth Street, the Russian party emerged behind obscuring glass shields placed in front of the hotel parking zone, and boarded a fleet of vehicles. Putin's Mercedes limo emerged swiftly with the Russian leader in the rear right-hand seat; he waved briefly to the crowd and was soon out of sight as the convoy headed to the airport. Despite the icy diplomatic conditions of Putin's visit there was no animosity in the crowd; like me, people just seemed to be keen to spot a world leader in person.  

While waiting for the Russian leader's departure I took a few scene-setting photos in case they turned out well later. One prominent sentry in front of the hotel cut a particularly imposing figure - the man pictured below. I assumed he was a scary Russian secret service officer, trained to snap enemies of the Russian state in two with his bare hands. Upon returning home and examining the image more closely, I noticed from his name-tag that it was in face Officer Mark Fyfe of the New Zealand Police. So for frying for nearly half an hour in direct sunlight in 40 degree temperatures whilst wearing a full business suit and tie, and looking appropriately mean while doing so, I salute you!

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