WHISTLER -- You'd never know, walking through town, that the foreign ministers of the most powerful nations in the world are meeting here this week.
The fact that Colin Powell, the U.S. secretary of state, will be sipping Torrefazione coffee at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler was news to several coffee-shop goers.
"Really?" said Suzie Webb, a recent transplant from Britain. "Well, they have to meet somewhere, I guess, and this is a beautiful place to be."
The resort is getting ready to host the G8 foreign ministers and is bracing for the protesters who usually show up at such meetings.
While hundreds of anti-globalization protesters are expected at the full G8 summit in Kananaskis, Alta., at the end of June, a much smaller number are expected in Whistler.
But RCMP Sgt. Grant Learned said security forces will be in place to deal with any size of protest.
"It is always easier to have people standing by and prepared and not have to use them than it is to need them and not have them," he said.
Security will be tight around the hotel. Nobody wants a repeat of the violence at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City last year, in which dozens were injured.
Barricades will be in place around the Chateau for crowd control and to funnel pedestrians in and out of secure areas. There will be security checks on people going into the hotel. And an RCMP helicopter will provide aerial surveillance.
Airports and helicopter-landing areas will remain open.
"We know that there have been calls made over the Internet and bulletins that are published and leaflets and handbills that are published calling for protest," said Learned.
"[We] have to be very careful because we know . . . from past experience the abilities of some of the protest organizers, and I'm not talking about people who are leading lawful protests here, to get mobilized.
"We may not have any hard information on them, so we have to be very respectful of that ability [to mobilize quickly] and to ensure that we do not deplete our resources in terms of our security plan at the 11th hour."
Whistler's mayor, Hugh O'Reilly, will be closely watching how the G8 foreign ministers' meeting unfolds.
The resort may host the World Economic Forum in 2004 if violent protest is muted at meetings such as this one around the globe.
He will also have in mind the 2010 Winter Olympics bid, which has a sizable security component.
"The perfect scenario would be that I never knew it was here and it left," said O'Reilly.
He is encouraged by the number of peaceful protests that have taken place after the terrorist attacks in the United States last Sept. 11.
"If there is no disturbance and it runs smoothly, then that is perfect," he said. "That is exactly what we hope happens.
"From what I have been hearing, we are OK. But that is something [security officials] keep a very close tab on and I haven't been given any indication that there is a heightened level at this point."
According to one Internet site, the Lower Mainland Social Justice Coalition is providing two buses to bring protesters to Whistler.
Greenpeace will be sending at least two high-profile European campaigners to the meeting to draw attention to two items being discussed: the disposal of plutonium and the continued import of illegally harvested wood products.
Fighting terrorism, stability in regions such as the Middle East, and the management of items such as plutonium and chemical weapons will be top priorities for the eight foreign ministers.
Kaoru Nakahama of Senka Florist is also watching to see how the G8 meeting affects Whistler.
She had thought about closing her shop on the ground floor of the Chateau, especially after the security checks.
"We thought it might be easier to escape and not be involved," she said.
But now she is hoping all the extra people who will be staying in and around the hotel will turn the dropoff in business she had expected into a boom instead.
"Usually this time of the year is quiet, but because the hotel is full, we might get more business," she said.
WHO ARE THE G8 FOREIGN MINISTERS?
Canada's Bill Graham, Hubert Vedrine of France, Joschka
Fischer of Germany, Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, Yoriko Kawaguchi of Japan, Igor Sergeyevich Ivanov of the Russian Federation, Jack Straw of Britain and Colin Powell of the United States.
WHEN WILL THEY MEET?
June 12 and 13.
WHY ARE THEY MEETING?
The foreign ministers have met before the full G8 summit (to be held this year in Kananaskis, Alta., June 26 and 27) for the past several years as the issues they deal with have grown in importance.
A meeting of foreign ministers is held twice a year; once before the G8 Summit and again on the margins of the UN General Assembly in the fall.
The G8 is an informal group of eight countries that meet with a broad-based agenda that addresses a wide range of international economic, political, and social issues. The first summit was held in 1975.
WHAT IS ON THE AGENDA?
This year the focus will be on counterterrorism and post-Taliban Afghanistan.
The eight foreign ministers will draw up specific measures to fight terrorism.
In particular, they will help create ways for non-G8 countries to fight terrorists and they will work on measures to prevent threats related to weapons of mass destruction and the use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents.
The ministers will also discuss the regional crises in the Middle East, India and Pakistan, the Balkans and possibly elsewhere.
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