With security extraordinarily tight on small and relatively remote Sea Island where the G-8 summit was held this week, nearby Savannah was bracing for the worst. The last G-8 summit three years ago in Genoa resulted in one death and hundreds of injuries during two days of intense clashes between Italian police and anti-globalization demonstrators.
But not to worry. Perhaps because they knew they couldn't get any significant access to Sea Island, not nearly as many protesters showed up as was expected and those who did were relatively peaceful.
But the shortage of protesters also meant there weren't as many people wining and dining in Savannah as merchants had hoped. There were, however, 3,000 thirsty and hungry journalists on the prowl. Surely they would eat and drink up a storm, enriching the coffers of Savannah's restaurateurs and barkeeps.
After all, hadn't the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce predicted a $35 million to $40 million windfall from the G-8? Yes it did, then it promptly contributed $200,000 to the G-8's hospitality budget that went toward providing visiting journalists and reporters with all the steak, crab cakes, suckling pigs, beer, wine and other goodies they could consume - and all free of charge 24 hours a day.
So much for that $35 million G-8 bonanza the chamber forecast. Its own hospitality ensured that figure would never be reached. Indeed, local restaurants and taverns actually lost money on the week - with business off about 35 to 50 percent for most of them.
"The Chamber ought to be shot," the Associated Press quoted one Savannah restaurant owner. "It's shameful that they've sponsored this ... all it's done is destroy their local businesses."
At least the hotels and motels were booked up with journalists, security and other G-8 hangers-on, yet all in all when it came to the bottom line, the G-8 was largely a bust for Savannah. At least it was spared the nightmare protests Genoa had to endure.
On that last point, georgia showed the world how it's done, from a security standpoint. This wasn't easy to pull off - and we did it.
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