I scoped out the Main Press Center (MPC) in the Olympic area on Sunday. It was the first time I entered the official Olympic work area. Needless to say, security was tight. I wrote a very, very short piece about the presence of security, including an funny anecdote, for msnbc.com the other day.
To get into the MPC building I had to pass through several layers of security; the outer perimeter, which restricts all unauthorized vehicles (which also means no taxis); another post to check my credential, another one to have my bag and body screened; and one last credential check to get into the MPC.
I had my backpack searched. I brought two bottles of water, which they asked me to drink. I had some Altoids; I had to eat one to show them I wasn’t smuggling in anthrax. And I also had some sun screen, which I applied at the checkpoint. The Swiss Army Knife? Well, it was close but it wasn’t confiscated. They put it on the table but handed it back to me. I guess it’s too small to do any real damage.
Although I can understand the more strident security measures (especially after groups vow to do this at the Olympics), I think a lot of media members and attendees are going to bristle at the fortress-like security. Especially if journalists get their bags opened and searched during deadline.
Most of the security personnel are very friendly and cordial, but you can’t help feeling a little rattled after passing each layer of security. And perhaps a little paranoid. Even hotels are screening guests and bags in their lobbies.
I’m really interested in how the media throng, most of whom haven’t arrived yet, will react. For a government that’s trying to avoid being labeled a police state, the security measures might be giving critics more ammo. The PRC, however, would probably accept the extra vitriol if the Games were harmonious from beginning to end.