Life on hold for the nuclear summit

ANDREA VANCE IN THE HAGUE
Last updated 11:58 25/03/2014

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As the UN's second official city, the Hague is well used to receiving foreign dignitaries.

But as 5000 delegates, 3000 journalists and 58 world leaders descended on the seat of the Dutch Government for the Nuclear Security Summit, the city went into lockdown - with kite-flying, swimming in the sea and even cycling banned in some areas.

Even the smallest details have been considered - with local media reporting that spinach was off the menu at an official dinner for fear it would become snagged in leaders' teeth and spoil an official photo.

VIPs including US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and our own Prime Minister John Key are staying in the city for two days.

As a result, security was amped up to an exasperating level in the largest operation the Netherlands has seen, costing up to €250m (NZ$405m).

Large areas of the central city were sealed off.

The area around the World Forum and Kurhaus - known as Yellow Zone One - became almost inaccessible to those without laminated official passes. Yellow for media, blue for officials.

Although residents were allowed to remain in their homes, parking was banned. Many residents took the opportunity to slip away for a weekend break or to work from home.

Visitors could only be received by prior arrangement, and although newspaper and letter deliveries were permitted, parcels were not.

In the bicycle-mad city, pedalling was banned - but locals could walk with their bikes.

Out with clamp-downs around the summit venue, there were other peculiar restrictions for city residents. Although Scheveningen beach was accessible, swimming in the sea and kite-flying on the shore were banned.

Restrictions were so tight that a number of urban myths also sprung up around the Summit, which the municipality sought to dispel.

Chief among the rumours was that Obama was to sleep on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Scheveningen.

"For security reasons, the location at which he and his delegation are staying cannot be divulged, but he is certainly not sleeping on an aircraft carrier," an official statement said.

Contrary to gossip the main areas of Het Plein, Spuiplein or Grote Markt were not transformed into heli-pads. Most leaders arrived swiftly by motorcade, along routes closed to normal traffic.

Rumour was also rife that women wouldn't be able to give birth during the summit.

"You can't stop a baby arriving," authorities stressed in a press release.

"And the emergency services will be able to gain access to everywhere, even during the NSS".

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