The clock has struck midnight. The dream is over. Back at the G7 summit, barely a day and 20 miles from here, I was treated like a prince. I was one of the chosen 3,000 journalists who were primped, pampered, fed and burped, given free T-shirts, gallons of goulash, buckets of booze, and all the cheesy footage of world leaders we could swallow. We lay back on our branded beanbags and were tickled silly by the gentle fist of the G7 PR machine. But not any more. The beanbag has burst.
“Step out of the vehicle and show me your identification!” A group of Austrian police officers took up position round my car. I pulled on the handbrake and opened the door. I swear to God one young officer shifted his hand to the butt of his sidearm, like I was about to rush them. All 12 of them. All armed. Maybe if there had only been 10 I might have taken them down using a slingshot improvised from my shoelaces, but not 12. I might be crazy but I’m not nuts.
Bear in mind, this checkpoint is all part of the same security operation, using the same police, that covered the G7. That much was admitted months ago by the Austrian authorities. It’s the exact same government-run operation that found room in its half-billion–or-so-euro budget to set up an air-conditioned accreditation centre in Garmisch and hand out branded lanyards and glossy press passes to journalists who had been duly checked out. But for some reason they can’t quite manage to do the same thing here.