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Surprise of the Day: Chicago Won't Host the G-8 Summit

After months of planning, the White House decided to shift the summit to Camp David.


For months, Chicago has been prepping for the double whammy of hosting the G8 and the NATO Summit in the same May weekend. As Cities contributor David Lepeska reported, it was the first time a city had hosted concurrent summits since the 1970s.

In preparation, Chicago has invested millions into security and surveillance: the events were expected to draw a record number of protesters to the city:

Much of Chicago's Loop is likely to be closed off and chaotic. Concerned about security and traffic congestion, Columbia College and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have already cancelled events originally scheduled during the May 19-21 summit. Gerald Roper, former head of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, has advised downtown businesses to post security outside buildings and allow employees to work from home.

But word out of the White House today is that Chicago has one less event to worry about. In a surprise move, the G-8 summit has been moved to Camp David. It seems that sentiment from city officials can be summed up neatly by Alderman Joe Moore, who told the Chicago Tribune: “Really, after all that drama?” 

According to the Trib, even the public relations firm leading the summit effort learned about the change from breaking news announcements. An agent at the Chicago Secret Service told the paper he was "caught off guard by questions about the cancellation, saying he had meetings scheduled this week regarding G-8 planning."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel lobbied hard to host both conferences, but President Obama reportedly decided that he "wanted the more informal setting in which to have a 'free-flowing discussion with his fellow leaders.'" Christi Parsons of the Chicago Tribune reports:

Camp David will more closely approximate the remote settings in which the G8 leaders prefer to gather. Summits in large cities typically see clamorous protests, while those in the countryside are calmer and more sedate.
"It's not about Chicago being able to handle logistics, as evidenced by the fact that the NATO and ISAF meetings will be held there, which are far larger than the G8 meeting," said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for Obama's National Security Council. "There are a lot of political, economic and security issues that come together at the G8."
"This was really about the president looking for a more informal setting with these close partners," she said.

We have a feeling this won't be the last we hear about what was behind the venue change.

Photo credit: John Gress/Reuters

About the Author

  • Amanda Erickson is a former senior associate editor at CityLab.