Oslo battens down the hatches

Bookmark and Share

Security preparations are in full swing as Oslo police and US Secret Service personnel get ready to protect US President Barack Obama. He’ll arrive next week to accept the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009, and crews are already busy removing all garbage cans downtown, sealing manhole covers in the streets and screening travelers from abroad.

All border crossings, bus terminals, harbors and airports are under surveillance prior to Obama’s arrival. Travelers may be stopped for random security checks.

“We will carry out controls when we think there is reason for it,” Bjørn Vandvik of the Oslo Police District told newspaper Aftenposten . “That can mean we’ll stop passengers at Oslo’s central train station one day, and those arriving on the cruise ferry from Kiel (Germany) another day.”

Heightened security provisions in connection with Obama’s visit mean the police can conduct random checks they’re normally prevented from carrying out. Oslo police have secured a temporary exemption from EU regulations because of Obama’s visit.

More than 2,000 police officers are involved in “Operation Nobel,” which is costing Norwegian taxpayers at least NOK 80 million and likely more than NOK 100 million (USD 14 million to 18 million).

Swedish police forces are also making staff and helicopters available if needed. Danish police are sending dogs trained to sniff out bombs.Several of Oslo’s main streets downtown will be cordoned off during the day on Thursday December 10, when the Peace Prize ceremony will take place at Oslo’s City Hall at 1pm.

City Hall officials, meanwhile, have literally left no stone unturned outside the building’s main entrance. It was already undergoing refurbishment when the Peace Prize announcement was made, and only this week was work being wrapped up. The cobblestone plaza won’t be entirely cleaned up, though, until Monday.

The traditional torchlight parade honoring the Peace Prize winner is scheduled to proceed as usual, but the area just in front of the Grand Hotel, where the parade normally ends, will be cordoned off. Parade-goers will be allowed to assemble in Eidsvolls Plass, in front of the Parliament Building but set back from the hotel, where the prize winner always stays. Obama is expected to make a traditional appearance on the balcony (albeit behind bullet-proof glass) just before 7pm on the 10th, before the Nobel Banquet begins.

“We want the situation downtown to be as normal as it can be when an American president comes to town,” Kjell Bjerklund of the Oslo Police told Aftenposten .

(See also our News Roundup , for more items related to Obama’s visit.)