Apec's Beijing atmosphere is electric

ELECTRIC ATMOSPHERE: Delegates at Apec in Beijing are being hit by static electricity shocks.

ELECTRIC ATMOSPHERE: Delegates at Apec in Beijing are being hit by static electricity shocks.

There have been some odd Apec meetings over the years, and not just because of the "silly shirts" the leaders wear.

But the present one in Beijing probably takes the cookie.

There was the Bill Clinton Apec in Auckland in 1999 where the president's every word, hand shake and choice of jacket - ooh he's slung it over his shoulder! - was a potential story.

Then there was the brutal one at Russky Island outside Vladivostok in 2012 where the new university campus starting shedding door handles on day two. The security guards thought it was a good idea to make reporters stand in the rain to file stories rather than shelter in hotel lobbies.

The New Zealand reporters nearly caused an international incident by pushing tables together in the regimented cafeteria.

But for its sheer weirdness it's hard to go past Beijing 2014 - although at the same time it has run extremely smoothly and the hospitality has been superb.

Extraordinary steps to reduce gridlock and pollution are just the start of it. Cars can only be used on alternate days, residents have been urged to leave town, and factories and energy plants have been closed or face curtailed hours to help produce a clear sky the locals have called "Apec blue".

But wait, there's more.

Marriages have been postponed, the burning of offerings to the dead have been banned, and Buddhist temples are reportedly only allowing low-smoke incense.

And the 2800-odd volunteers at the summit, culled from an original 8000 applicants, have had intensive preparation for their roles including how to smile - which apparently involved holding a pencil between the lips.

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"Smiles have three dimensions - eyebrows, eyes and lips," the trainee hosts were told.

They were even instructed on where to look at guests' faces - not directly in the eyes but at the middle of their noses.

Even the lift operators had special training before they were entrusted with button-pressing.

At the convention centre and around the media rooms things are no less freaky.

VIPs are welcomed to the stage with a fanfare of trumpets that wouldn't have been out of place at a royal court. It is not too odd when it's Barack Obama or Vladimir Putin, but former New Zealand Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard and Prime Minister John Key?

And around the giant media room there are random yelps of surprise when someone touches a desk, a computer or shakes hands with a colleague and gets an electric jolt.

The shock treatment can happen five or six times an hour and is blamed on the dry Beijing air. But this is Apec, where things move slowly, if at all.

Rest assured, it's only static.

 - Stuff

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