Crowded Midway: Or Why It's a Zoo

Fellow C&EN blogger Jerry Schnoor described the lines to get accreditation to Bella Center, where the Copenhagen climate meeting. I found out what the underlying problem is from Axel Wuestenhagen, media coordinator for the conference. "We had not expected this avalanche" as people sought entry to the Bella Center when the second week of the conference began, Wuestenhagen said. The staff processing the paperwork for all of the folks who have arrived in Copenhagen are overwhelmed. High-ranking politicians, journalists, and students are stuck in line. There's another problem too. The Bella Center has a capacity of 15,000. But the U.N. registered 45,215 people to get in -- although only about 22,000 badges were distributed as of yesterday. bella center medium "Who's to blame? Me," Yvo de Boer, the U.N.'s top climate official, told reporters today. "I suppose we could have stopped the registration when we reached the 15,000 mark. But our thinking was people come in, people come out, people go out, people come for the first week, people come for the second week, so let's make sure that we register as many as possible. "We can't guarantee that everyone will be able to get into the building when they want to get in the building because that would be unsafe," de Boer said. He said people are spending too much time in line outside the Bella Center. "I think that is very bad and I am responsible for that." It may be cold comfort to those shivering outside, but de Boer said he is working with the Danish police, who control access into the Bella Center, and U.N. security forces, who are responsible for what happens inside, to get people into complex as quickly as possible. He adds that his priority is getting government representatives inside since they are the ones who have to make the official decisions at this U.N. meeting. Of the 45,000 registrants, almost half -- 22,774 -- are observers, according to Wuestenhagen. They are primarily from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that run the gamut from industry groups to indigenous people to environmental activists to farmers to those who provide disaster relief and help to the poor of the world. Only 1,000 NGO representatives will be allowed in the building when heads of state arrive on Thursday and Friday. The next largest chunk of those registered are from governments -- 11,500. Then there are the 7,400 technical staff who are working in the background, seeing that the rest rooms are stocked with toilet paper, making copies of U.N. documents, handling the enormous coat check operation. Journalists make up the last chunk, a little less than 3,500. Check out the photo. The inside of the Bella Center looks like a midway to me.

Author: Cheryl Hogue

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