Mainz gears up for presidential visit
23 February 2005, MAINZ - "Attention commuters," the loudspeaker announcement at a train stop in Mainz said. "Due to the presidential visit on Wednesday, there may be some considerable disruptions in the train services. We ask your understanding." A groan went up among the commuters on the local train, along with some sighs and some shaking of heads as residents of Mainz tried to adjust to an unaccustomed role: For seven hours on Wednesday, being the centre of world attention when President George W. Bush
23 February 2005
MAINZ - "Attention commuters," the loudspeaker announcement at a train stop in Mainz said. "Due to the presidential visit on Wednesday, there may be some considerable disruptions in the train services. We ask your understanding."
A groan went up among the commuters on the local train, along with some sighs and some shaking of heads as residents of Mainz tried to adjust to an unaccustomed role: For seven hours on Wednesday, being the centre of world attention when President George W. Bush and his wife Laura visit the city.
"I guess I'll have to get a much earlier start if I'm going to make it to work on time tomorrow," a man could be heard muttering after the loudspeaker announcement. "But, it's only for a day."
With major security precautions being put into effect for the visit, Mainz residents were being advised to prepare for all sorts of traffic detours in and around the city.
They were also being advised by the local daily Mainzer Rhein- Zeitung to show up early - real early - if they want to try to get a glimpse of Bush and his wife when they visit the Gutenberg Museum on Wednesday afternoon.
"People should show up at the barricades near the Gutenberg Museum at 3:30 a.m. at the latest," the newspaper article said. That is roughly 12 hours before the Bushs' scheduled 3:30 p.m. visit to the museum.
Many people don't realize that this is the second visit to their city by a President Bush.
In May 1989, the current president's father, George Bush senior, came to Mainz bearing a message that the United States was keen on a mature "partnership" with Europe. His son is now travelling around trying to get the same message across as he tries to patch up Washington's ties with the Europeans.
A day before the visit, Mainz was rapidly being converted into a bastion of security and headquarters for the world media. Green police cars and vans were to be seen everywhere, sometimes racing down streets with their sirens wailing, while other police and dogs were patrolling the streets on foot.
Barricades were being set up around the perimeter of the downtown government district close to the banks of the Rhine River. There, the imposing 16th-century baroque style Elector Palace was being prepared as the venue of the talks between Bush and his German host, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Already on Tuesday, the US and German flags, along with that of the host state of Rhineland-Palatinate, were flying above the palace, whipping at full length in a frosty sub-freezing wind coming off the Rhine.
The park grounds close to the palace quickly filled up on Tuesday with TV vans, electricity generators, and satellite dishes for the television crews, while journalists lined up to gain their press badges at the office building for the deputies of the Rhineland- Palatinate state parliament, located down the street. Some 1,800 journalists from around the world were expected in Mainz.
Protesters were arriving as well. On Tuesday evening, in a park in the fashionable Kaiserstrasse boulevard about one kilometre from the government district, an anti-Bush rock concert and rally were scheduled under the slogan, "Not Welcome, Mr. Bush".
During the sound check of the stage equipment, strains of late Beatle John Lennon's peace anthem, "Imagine" could be heard vying with the sounds of sirens as yet another column of police vans raced through the streets.
Subject: German news