Crash course: The G8 summit

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This year’s meeting of the Group of Eight – or the G8 – begins in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, on Monday. The summit draws the world’s most powerful leaders – as well as protests and disruption.

TIMELINE

FIRST MEETING

1975

Initially called the G6 (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and the UK), it convened near Paris in response to the 1973 oil crisis

EXPANSION

1976

Canada joined, making this Puerto Rico summit the G7. PM James Callaghan defended the UK's economic performance after US criticism

GREEN GAS

1987

In Venice, the G7 began a trend of talking up environmental concerns without making commitments. First up, action on climate change

BIG THAW

1991

As the Cold War ended, John Major invited Mikhail Gorbachev to London as a guest of the G7

NOW WE ARE 8

1997

Russia joined; Boris Yeltsin was served an all-American dinner of Colorado Bison at the Denver summit

PROTESTS

2001

In Genoa, 200,000 anti-globalisation protestors descended, and many were beaten by heavy-handed police

AID BOOST

2005

Some 225,000 people gathered in Edinburgh for a Make Poverty History march. The G8 leaders boosted aid to poor countries by $50bn

ARRESTS

2006

Police arrested hundreds of activists before the St Petersburg meeting. Cherie Blair goaded the Kremlin by offering legal assistance

NEW ORDER

2009

There was a transfer of power from the G8 to the G20 after Obama said emerging nations India and China needed a greater say in global economy

This year's meeting of the Group of Eight – or the G8 – begins in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, on Monday. The summit draws the world's most powerful leaders – as well as protests and disruption

Profile: The host leader

Peter Robinson, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, sees the upcoming G8 summit in Enniskillen as a chance to "promote" his country "on the global stage". First, though, he'll have to ensure that inevitable protests in Fermanagh don't spill over into disorder.

The 64-year-old, renowned as a canny strategist, got into politics after a school friend was killed in an IRA bombing. In 1971, he was a founder member of the Democratic Unionist Party, and eight years later became an MP. After becoming party leader and First Minister in 2008, his wife Iris – also an MP at the time – branded homosexuality an "abomination".

Her husband defended her, saying "the Almighty" had declared it so. In 2010, he briefly stepped down after it was revealed that his wife had an affair with a 19-year-old man. Both she and Peter were cleared of wrongdoing over the awarding of £50,000 in secret loans to the teenager so he could open a café.

In his spare time, he keeps Koi carp, collects ties and likes golfing and bowling.

By Liam O'Brien

How to: Stand out from the crowd

It's tough when everyone's in a suit and you're, say, Stephen Harper (Canada, if you weren't sure) but the G8 has revealed subtle techniques for standing out on the world stage...

Bill turned diplomatic glad-handing into an artform with the much-copied Clinton shake. Fixed stare, square shoulders, firm grip and – crucially – a grasp of the elbow with your other hand. Perfect this and it doesn't matter what you say.

Imagine the weary newspaper picture editor scrolling through life-sapping photos of boring people like you. Now imagine the image in which the world's most powerful people are guffawing at YOUR joke. It won't even need to be that funny.

If the G8 is a school canteen with bigger bullies, you need to be on the right table. Make a beeline for Obama and Merkel, mouth words, nod enthusiastically, do something with your hands and hear those shutters click.

By Simon Usborne

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