The 60 visiting heads of state who attended the NATO summit in Celtic Manor, Newport had a sumptuous banquet at Cardiff Castle on the evening of Thursday 4th September 2014. The event was dubbed `The dinner of death` by the demonstrators.
At Celtic Manor NATO heads had dined on dishes of crab ravioli and white asparagus with quail’s egg which were served to the well-heeled diners at the largest hotel in Wales.
Unable to go walkabout in the streets of Newport or Cardiff the NATO delegates and their entourage had to hide behind miles of 2.74 metres (nine feet) high fencing and rings of police.
There were differing accounts of how Barrack Obama had arrived for the Cardiff dinner. Some said he had flown in or had sneaked in the back entrance and some even speculated that the whole event was a hoax and the occasion actually took place at another locale. It is unclear how he left, the BBC website reported that ` The president left the castle in a cavalcade just before midnight. `
However the official looking limousine which was decked out in US and Welsh flags had clear windows with no sign of the President. About two minutes after the motorcade had departed the castle a large helicopter was observed flying in the direction of Newport and Celtic Manor. It was generally felt that this chopper conveyed Obama to his luxury suite at the Celtic Manor jokingly called Colditz by the locals on account of its lofty position above the town and ultra-high security.
The event attracted a demonstration of around a thousand with many Palestinian flags and banners visible. However Palestine did not seem to be on the agenda of the NATO conference who talked of forming a rapid reaction force probably directed at Russia.
One placard said `What a waste of £50 million!!`. This huge sum included the cost of nearly 10,000 extra police and the many miles of high fencing required to surround the NATO leaders. There were even six naval ships from the UK, France, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Norway in Cardiff Bay which will be there until Tuesday though exactly who they might be directed against is unclear. Wales Online reported of the ships: ` On Sunday (7th September) between 11am and 6pm, there will be a chance to go onboard some of the ships. `
From the Daily Mail: `On Friday there will be two sessions of the North Atlantic Council, while Nato Defence and Foreign Ministers will hold parallel meetings.
The Government released figures yesterday which predict that 15,000 meals will be served to delegates, media and production crew over the two days while an estimated 12,500 litres of water will be drunk.
They say there will be three military bands performing, 800 staff from Celtic Manor working and 157 Royal Mint commemorative pieces struck and given to world leaders and Newport schools.
The costs for security at the event is not yet known and is expected to be published by the Government after the event.
According to Gwent Police the bill will be met by NATO and No.10 Downing Street. `
The evening was relatively peaceful though four arrests were reported including a protester who was arrested for having his face covered. I suggested to the (London Met) policeman nearby that this was hardly an arrestable offence but he responded “I think you’ll find, sir that under section 60 of the public order act it is an arrestable offence to have one’s face covered.” I put my bag over my face and said: “Could I be arrested for having my face covered like this?” To which he replied: “Don’t be silly sir, why are you wasting my time? I have to protect my colleagues.” Well, he intimated the purpose of his being there – to protect his colleagues.
Some protesters stayed from six O’clock till after midnight in the warm, humid September evening. Those who were staying at Newport for example in the peace camp at Tredegar Park had to make do with the 0030 train from Cardiff central station to Newport and rather more modest beds than Barack’s Presidential Suite which is lovingly described thus:
` The two Presidential Suites are perfect for those seeking the ultimate in luxury with large terraces, a spacious sitting room and a private dining area for up to 10 guests, as well as a master bedroom with marble bathroom, oversized bath and double shower with steam facility, a guest bedroom with bathroom, a small kitchen area and a guest cloakroom. ` The hotel is surrounded by 4,000 acres of grounds with a golf course where the 2010 Ryder Cup was held.
Alright for some!