Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Bella Centre Rejection Process

This was always going to be a frustrating day but I was still unprepared for the efficiency with which I was ejected from the Bella Centre registration lobby and back into the impossibly early 2pm chilly Copenhagen dusk.

I've been in Copenhagen since Sunday, finding my feet and trying to make sense of the cycle lanes and the huge amount of information published in a multitude of forms about the UNFCCC COP15 climate talks and other parallel events. I've mastered the single brake bike (it actually has two but you only discover the second when you try to back-pedal and end up skidding to a stop in the middle of a busy junction) and I now know that a cyclists hand raised up with fingers wiggling doesn't mean that they're being friendly but that they're about to pull over and perform a sneaky left turn. They are a pretty friendly bunch though and I've been invited to follow other cyclists a few times in response to a blank expression as they give me unpronounceable street names.

It's a bleak bike ride to the The Bella Centre, a typical exhibition and conference centre, about 2 miles out of town at the end of a corridor of new housing. It looks out across open heath and marshes and is surrounded by concrete blocks, steel fencing, razor wire and a few Danish "Politi" (police). At the moment, they seem to be keeping a low profile at the centre and focussing on the sites where activists are starting to meet up for Saturday's big action.

So, with my face fresh from cycling and armed with my two "Letters Of Assignment", press card and passport, I strode past the rather bizarre Supreme Master Ching Hai goody-bag handout and walked confidently towards the first line of security. "Badge?" barked the large security guard blocking the entrance channel immediately. I explained that I was registering as press and he yielded. After two more demands for my clearly highly prized but non-existent badge, I made it to the security tent and its twenty X-ray machines. Another request for my badge and I finally made it to the queue for the press registration desk. An Italian writer behind me had just come straight to the centre from her train and was in the same situation as me - not knowing whether we had made it onto the list or not.

I hadn't. I had to wait 30 minutes as UN press teams, concealed behind a dividing screen, considered my plight. My Italian colleague didn't make it either. Looking at the blogs this evening, there are some seriously frustrated independent journalists. At least I hadn't travelled 5,000 miles to be told that I couldn't come in.

It's much easier to get out from the registration are - you simply follow the "unsuccessful registration" signs. Another request for my badge as I left - just to rub salt into the wound - and, with a final push of a temporary door in a temporary wall, I was back out in the cold and planning where to interview Brother Berge, one of my "personal journey" stories. As I cycled back along the edge of the bleak and misty heath towards the city centre I kept telling myself that I didn't want to get into their centre anyway.

No comments:

Post a comment