Bright lights, big bangs, lasers and - babies?
Monday 30 June 1997
First, there are the politics. Extraordinary, historic, unique, all that kind of thing. But the celebrations will attempt to be even more momentous, in their way, than the goodbye-and-hello ceremonies of the handover.
After tonight's speech-making is over, the next Big Event will get underway with the wham-bang Hong Kong 97 Spectacular tomorrow night. Twenty tonnes of fireworks - 17,000 flashes - will be fired from barges in the harbour in 10 minutes. Then comes a giant laser display, which (surprise, surprise) will use more laser equipment than has ever before been used for a one- night show. At the climax of the laser show, all the lights and neon signs of the Hong Kong waterfront are supposed to be switched off at the same time.
And so the dramas go on. One should not forget the mass karaoke bid, where organisers hope that millions of local people will break out into song at the same time. Or the biggest-ever baby-crawling contest.
Providing facilities for the handover is also a mammoth endeavour on a unique scale. Eight thousand journalists have registered for the Big Night, many times more than would normally turn up for a mere mega-summit or the fall of the Berlin Wall. Journalists did not, after all, have 13 years to start preparing for the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Hong Kong press centre has been working 24 hours a day for the past week, providing daily briefings on any subject you might want to know about, and plenty more that you might not. Hong Kong Telecom has an advertising slogan: "Hong Kong: what can be imagined, can be achieved." In Hong Kong, you cannot help feeling that this is more than just chutzpah.
None the less, as the Big Night approaches, things begin to look more traumatic. The security problems - not least because of the sensitivity of Chinese government leaders - are leading to huge delays in getting access to the areas where the most important events are taking place. Journalists are asked to turn up two hours early for even the briefest encounters with visiting politicians.
Meanwhile, in an effort to please the mainland Chinese, the number of demonstrators allowed near the convention centre where the main ceremonies will take place is minimal. China's greatest fear is that ordinary Hong Kongers might be allowed to get within egg-throwing reach of the government leaders from Peking. The Hong Kong authorities have done everything possible to avoid such embarrassment: the Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, and the hated Prime Minister, Li Peng, will be brought across by boat from the airport to the convention centre, avoiding the danger of having to drive past any hostile crowds.
The People's Liberation Army will not enjoy such a luxurious option. They will be forced to pass through real Hong Kong in their armoured personnel carriers in order to reach their barracks. Tomorrow's 6am drive-through could be the occasion for yet another first: Chinese people shaking fists at PLA troops, without any immediate danger of being arrested or shot.
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 2 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
- 5 The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
Hilary Swank: Million Dollar Baby star says she turns down roles to care for elderly father
Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
Eiji Tsuburaya's 114th birthday: Monster movie pioneer honoured in interactive Google Doodle
Bakery sends 'horrific' version of Frozen-themed birthday cake to unsuspecting customer
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest manufacturer of UPV...
£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well establis...
£16500 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued growth an exce...
£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A full-service agency based in ...