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Varnishing Vladivostok for the APEC summit - it's the biggest makeover in years

By The Siberian Times reporter
25 August 2012

An army of almost 3000 foreign workers combine with locals to get the city ready for the September APEC summit of world leaders.

Welcome to Vladivostok! About 3,000 workers are in the city, preparing it for APEC. Picture: The Siberian TImes

Everywhere you look buildings are being painted, roads paved, grass cut, beaches cleaned, cracks mended, and debris removed in an operation of military precision. 

The changes are far more than mere manicuring - though this is certainly going on too - as the city seeks to use the summit to establish its position at the top table of key Pacific business and cultural hubs.

Three of the world's great bridges have been opened to traffic in the past month and a superbly equipped new university campus  - the conference venue - built from scratch to serve some 60,000 students has been constructed on Russkiy Island. 

In all, more than 50 venues or facilities are entirely new.

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Everywhere you look buildings are being painted, roads paved, grass cut, beaches cleaned, cracks mended. Pictures: The Siberian TImes

The changes are every bit of significant as the massive Soviet development of Vladivostok that followed Nikita Khrushchev's call to create an eastern San Francisco, which came as the giant naval port was ironically shut off from the world with a 'closed' status.

The development of the 1960s and 1970s, out of sight to outsiders, included much that was ugly and unsympathetic in a location for a city which is one of the finest anywhere. It scarred an attractive tsarist core, which thankfully is now nicely restored in many downtown areas.

But the bold new bridges, along with the university, and the new airport terminal are all eye-catching buildings.

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Cruise ships will provide some of the accommodation for participants,  who will number more than 10,000. Picture: The Siberian TImes

Two new Hyatt hotels - delayed and not to be ready as planned for APEC - are fine and imposing modern designs, as is an Opera House still under construction. Some limited pedestrianisation - and the use of fountains - also gives a nice flourish. 

It is estimated some $20 billion has been spent on preparations for the summit and the battalions of workers are now racing against the clock to be ready on time. In recent days work was especially intense around the summit venue on Russkiy Island, with dozens of lorries delivering building goods in a final push to get the work done.

The island was closed to non-essential visitors on Saturday in readiness for the APEC arrivals.

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V for Vladivostok - bridge to Russky island. Right, some of the locals are enjoying last summer days. Pictures: The Siberian TImes

But as prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said recently, the summit will come and go. This legacy will live on and hopefully will become a new base for even more impressive changes over the next several decades. 

'Everything that we've done in the past few years is, of course, linked to the summit,' said Medvedev. 'But it's not for the summit - it's for you, for all who live here.'

Hosted by President Vladimir Putin, the US will be represented at the 24th APEC summit between September 2 and 9 by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while other countries in the 21-nation Asian and Pacific grouping are sending their heads of state or top officials. 

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It is estimated some $20 bln has been spent on preparations for APEC. Below: building of new Hyatt hotel. Picture:The Siberian TImes

Warships, warplanes, and S-400 missile defence systems will be deployed to protect the leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping.

Russian civil aviation authorities will restrict access to the airspace around the city of Vladivostok.

'The security of the summit will be provided by engineering units of the Eastern Military District, and anti-aircraft units, which include an S-400 system, the [Sukhoi] Su-27SM, Su-30 and MiG-31 jets, as well as by Pacifit Fleet warships and submarines,' disclosed Igor Korotchenko, chairman of the Defence Ministry's Public Council.

Some 900 volunteers will look after the summit visitors, and the first have already arrived to prepare the facilities at the Far Eastern Federal University.

A group of 300 young people have come from Primorye region but also from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Chita, Astrakhan, Chelyabinsk, Blagoveshchensk and Khabarovsk. More from Buryatia, Kazan and Sochi will be in Vladivostok by the end of August. 

A key task will be hosting the world's media descending on Vladivostok for the summit. 

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'But It's not for the summit - it's for you, for all who live here', PM Dmitry Medvedev said, referring to work done in Vladivostok in preparations for the summit. Picture:The Siberian TImes

Not all has gone smoothly in preparations for APEC. The  failure for the Hyatt hotels to be completely up and running was a blow, and three swish new hydrofoils meant to make shuttle trips between Vladivostok and Russkiy Island are not ready. 

Cruise ships will instead provide some of the accommodation for participants and visitors who will number more than 10,000. 

The summit gives an unprecedented chance for the city and region to promote itself. 

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Varnishing Vladivostok for the APEC summit - it's the biggest makeover in years. Picture: The Siberian TImes

'Delegations of 21 economies will arrive in Primorye. Besides, representatives of over 500 major companies of the world have confirmed their participation,' said vice governor of Primorye territory Sergei Sidorov.

'They will be accommodated at the campus of the Far Eastern Federal University, cruise liners and hotels of Vladivostok.'

Preparations include small but important things as well as the grandiose. Restaurants are extending their hours of opening 'until the last customer leaves', and also printing menus in English. Many have introduced credit card payment systems to fit in with international norms. 

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Suberb view... a new stunning addition to Vladivostok skyline, the bridge to Russky island. Picture:The Siberian TImes

Toilet cubicles in central areas - often an eyesore - have been decorated on the outside with attractive pictures of Vladivostok from before the Bolshevik Revolution. 

Officials say some 2,911 foreign workers are in the city preparing for the event. Many are from Uzbekistan, though substantial numbers are also from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Building specialists have been drafted in from Turkey. 

Comments (1)

Good to highlight this. World's media will ignore this welcome revolution in Vladivostok because Pussy Riot is much more important, or it's what they think. After years of neglect Kremlin now does something to build up the far east in Russia and the results could be exciting in maybe ten or 20 years not sooner. This is the start and its fine to see all this work in the city. Now it has pride again. I remember in 1990s it did not. It's not allowed to say on Western media I know, but Putin deserves credit here for this. not for him driving it, still Vladivostok would be mired in corruption & pessimism.
RK, Japan (expat)
25/08/2012 20:37
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