Blog: More from the Eternal City

Catherine Sleep | 17 June 2004

About to start day two of what is turning into a fascinating conference. Speakers rarely choose events like this to break important news or unveil strategic changes to the press; but it is a great opportunity for journalists to get the inside track on top-level industry issues and cosy up to contacts who may prove helpful in the future.

It’s also a great opportunity to meet fellow journalists from other countries. In this spirit, I dined last night with food trade journos from all over the world, courtesy of conference sponsor KPMG. I wound up sitting between hacks from Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, so we mainly chatted in German, which I always enjoy, as my opportunities to speak German at home are limited.

One hot topic remained the activities of Greenpeace, who managed to be quite disruptive yesterday. Their speakers outside the hall were so loud that many of us ended up listening to the (English) speeches through headphones to cut out the background noise. Later on they made a splash at the poolside cocktail party when a ‘waiter’ suddenly ripped off his jacket to reveal a Greenpeace T-shirt, chained himself to a railing and started sounding off through a handheld tannoy. I applaud their ingenuity but hope they feel they’ve made their point now. Former WTO director general Mike Moore yesterday called on companies to fund worthy NGOs; a show of goodwill on their part might engender tolerance. In any case there’s a significant police presence about the place today.

The other slightly surreal event of yesterday was a performance by the Italian synchronized swimming team at the aforementioned cocktail party. I’ve never seen synchro swimmers close-up. Their athleticism is impressive but it’s still one of the more bizarre sports. And how do they keep their make-up on?


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