Don’t know about other people, but ordinarily the G7/G8 doesn’t even cause the slightest blip on my radar. Until Saturday, I couldn’t even name the participating countries. But since it was a very damp, drizzly day at Sea Island and a day totally unsuited for playing outside, we decided to take the G8 Summit tour offered by the resort. We have been coming to Sea Island fairly regularly on the first weekend in December for the last thirty-something years because Rick has been a participant in a work-related conference here. This weekend was the first time I was even aware that a G8 tour has probably been offered since it was held here in 2004. It turned out to be a really interesting experience.
The first G7 (Group of Seven) Summit was held in 1976. It is basically a meeting of the heads of the world’s wealthiest nations: France, UK, USA, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Canada. The head of the European Commission has been included since the early 1980s. In 1997, Russia was added, which is why the name changed to G8. Then, when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, it’s membership was suspended. Russia withdrew in 2014, so I guess we are back to the G7 now. The flag of Russia is not flying with the other flags. At the Sea Island Summit, there were also a number of guest invitees from countries in Africa and the Middle East as well as Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the UN. The presidency of the Group of Eight rotates and the president chooses the location. In 2004, George Bush became president of the G8. When his father was president of the G8, he chose Houston as the location of the summit because it is customary for the president to bring the G8 to his or her home state. The younger Bush didn’t want to take the group back to Texas, so he began searching for another location where he could highlight “Southern hospitality” in June of 2004.
The participants arrived at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah and were flown to Sea Island 80 miles away by helicopter. Our guide said it was really strange to see a helicopter touch down on the causeway over to the island. Security was incredibly tight and provided by Georgia National Guard (Army and Air), the FBI, Georgia State Troopers, and the Secret Service. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources also lent a hand. At first, it’s probably natural to think that because the summit was held on a small island that security would be simpler than in a big city, but keep in mind that the waters surrounding the island had to be patrolled constantly. When the members walked out on a dock, there were divers underwater around the dock. This little story is rather far-fetched, but we were told that one of the participants leaned over and his glasses fell into the river. A diver’s hand came up from the water holding the glasses up to return them to their owner. Actually, the USS Iwo Jima was anchored on standby fourteen miles from Sea Island, so it’s obvious that security was taken very seriously. The Department of Homeland Security was stretched a bit that week because Ronald Reagan passed away three days after the summit began and his funeral was held on June 11. Speaking of security concerns, apparently the sword in the sheath worn by the President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to the left of President Bush in the photograph below, gave the Secret Service more than a little heartburn. Our guide said that just out of the photograph, several agents stood poised to pounce in a split second if needed.
The walls of the main building at Sea Island are used to display old photographs of people who have visited the resort over the years. I found the photograph below of President Carter planting his Presidential Oak particularly interesting since First Lady Rosalynn Carter passed away just within the last week or so. She looks so young in the photograph from 1981. To walk down the halls of this resort is to stroll through decades of history. I will wrap this up with a few pictures of the resort with the halls decked out for the holidays.
Instead of a gingerbread house this year, they decided to do a gingerbread 1928 Hudson. It’s covered with gingerbread, icing, and candy. Howard Coffin, the man who built the resort, was one of two founders of the Hudson Motor Car Company.