Fortress Raffles City

We all knew that with the International Olympic Committee in town, Raffles City and its environs would turn into a high-security zone with the power to snarl traffic in the entire downtown area and confound regular folks' plans to hang out at its classy food and drink establishments. What I didn't know was that I would voluntarily put myself right in the middle of that high-security area not once, but several times during the little security fiesta. Just call me once, twice, three times a doofus, I guess.

I suppose the vague upside to this is that I've had the opportunity to see the area metamorphose from a typical shopping district into a fortress on par with the American embassy. As of Friday night a week ago, things were still pretty humdrum and I could crack jokes about finding a loophole in the security net as Ondine and I waltzed through the hotels to use the restrooms. (Yeah, we're shameless that way.) By Tuesday night, everything was full steam ahead. Conspicuously anonymous concrete blocks had mushroomed at the four traffic light corners, neatly impeding pedestrians approaching the complex from any direction, but I suppose more importantly, impeding any vehicles that might decide to take the sidewalk route into the buildings. Later, to get into the hotel proper, my ex-colleagues and I had to walk through an X-ray scanner and send our bags through a separate scanner, just like at the airport. By last night, the Gurkhas and policemen patrolling in and outside the shopping centre had multiplied at least threefold to the casual observer's eye, and a Gurkha watched me darkly as I fumbled with my bag while entering the ATM lobby.

(Maybe I should stop carrying my shapeless black satchel until the IOC's left town. It looks a helluva lot more suspicious than the bright orange backpack featured in the MRT's "report any suspicious objects" advertisement.)

Meanwhile, the roads in the area were even messier than they'd been earlier in the week. Part of it was Friday nigh traffic, but the fact that the police had cordoned off an extra lane ouside each possible hotel vehicle entrance or dropoff point didn't help, either. I guess somewhere in the security equation, it worked out that having that extra one lane's distance from the building was an appropriate tightening of security measures after what happened in London.

At the zebra crossing from the Swissotel Stamford towards the Civilian War Memorial, I had to wait docilely instead of authoritatively charging across as usual, because the policemen were directing traffic waiting to cross the funky vehicle-barrier devices positioned just beside the crossing. The device's default position seems to be a raised somewhat spiked metal barrier, which I assume is strong enough to halt or at least seriously shred the undercarriage of any vehicle charging at it, and the barrier can be lowered so that one vehicle at a time can be checked and pass over it safely. It doesn't exactly look threatening, more bulky and self-important, the kind to waggle its proverbial finger at aspiring terrorists, as if to say, "You ain't making it past me, mister."

A large tour bus had just pulled up, and it crossed my mind to wait and see how the policemen were gonna scan the undercarriage of something that honking huge. But that's when the nice young policeman on my side of the zebra crossing waved me on, so I thought I'd better not linger suspiciously. I did say "thank you" to both him and his counterpart on the other side of the zebra crossing. I figured they were having a rough enough week, without us local busybodies making things more ma fan (troublesome).

The IOC went home yesterday, putting paid to the entire navel-gazing circus. And that was just for the party where they decide where to host the Olympics. Can you imagine the security kerfuffle for the Games themselves? (Lucky Paris. New Yorkers didn't want it either.)




Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]