Toronto’s G-20 'Wrong Way Run' 

Picture your home town. Now, try picturing what it would look like when the Group of 20 (G-20) comes to town.

Not sure how the G-20 would change things? Then take a look at what the G-20 is doing to the Canadian city of Toronto, which will host a meeting of G-20 leaders, including President Obama, later this month:

-Multiple three-metre-high security fences are snaking their way across downtown streets. This is to physically separate the area where the G-20 leaders will meet from the rest of the city. These fences do more than disrupt traffic. The city looks not just like it is under siege, but as if some invading army is close to delivering a final blow against the defending forces, to push those hold-outs into Lake Ontario.

-People working or living in the buildings close to where the G-20 leaders will meet are being issued registration cards by government security agencies. The people who receive these cards are to use them to prove to police that their presence near the summit is legitimate.

-Police security cameras have been installed all over the downtown areas close to where President Obama and the other world leaders will meet. The cameras and the cards are adding to the state-of-siege feeling.

When it was announced that the G-20 was coming to Toronto, the city’s elite crowed. They hailed the news as yet more proof of Canada’s largest city’s growing international importance.

As the costs and inconveniences associated with the G-20 summit mount, and as that state-of-siege feeling becomes stronger, the self-congratulatory talk is giving way to something else.

Elite and non-elite Torontonians alike are starting to realize how Jim Marshall, a Minnesota Viking defensive lineman, must have felt after his famous “wrong way run.”

While playing in a 1964 game against the 49ers, Marshall caught a fumble and sprinted 60 yards – ending up in the wrong end zone. (Marshall threw the ball, thinking he had scored a touchdown, so his mistake ended up being counted as a safety for the 49ers.)

Many Toronto residents see this G-20 summit as their city’s equivalent of Marshall’s infamous sprint. Once the meeting breaks up and the G-20 leaders fly home after mouthing the usual vague declarations that are quickly forgotten, a large chunk of Toronto’s population will be determined to avoid a future repeat of this “wrong way run.”

Toronto residents will get over the fences and the cards and the cameras. They will still want to make sure that this 2010 G-20 meeting will be the last such gathering in their city for many years.

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Neil Hrab

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