Campus & Community

University readies for Wen Jiabao

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Preparing for the premier’s premiere, a complex job

Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Harvard lasted just a few hours, but preparations for the occasion spanned nearly a month. Wen’s Harvard hosts – the Office of the President, the Harvard University Asia Center, and the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research – worked alongside hundreds of faculty, staff, and volunteers from around the University to plan and execute the visit. The University Marshal’s office managed protocol; Transportation Services shuttled audience

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members across the river to the Business School campus; the Harvard University Police Department coordinated the security forces of the U.S. and Chinese governments as well as the Boston Police; the Harvard News Office corralled the 70-some members of the media expected to attend the event; and Harvard Business School (HBS) opened its campus and facilities while ensuring the event didn’t interfere with its students’ final exams.

“Everyone’s done a lot of work to put the best foot of the University forward, but this is a home game for us,” says Robert Breslow, HBS director of administrative services, adding that he and his staff eagerly soaked up the expertise of their collaborators.

No detail escaped scrutiny. Volunteer ushers learned how to work the inevitable line of eager audience members to expedite their entry into the hall. Headsets gave each guest a translation in the language of choice (as long as the choice was English or Chinese). The podium was adjusted to a predetermined height and the “Veritas” banner that hung behind Wen and the speakers was calculated to frame the orators in crimson. “There are a gazillion details,” says Asia Center program administrator Holly Angell. “You wake up in the middle of the night thinking, ‘Where’s the coat rack?’”

And while no red carpet rolled out to greet the premier, his footsteps were nonetheless cushioned by some freshly installed flooring. In the back hallway of Burden Hall, through which Wen and his delegation entered, contractor Steve Tholen of Pavilion Floors worked all day Tuesday to replace the tired carpeting. Even the outdoors got remodeled: Landscapers cleared a path through the snow from HBS Dean Kim Clark’s residence to the hall and laid a ribbon of green carpet so Wen and his entourage could leave their snow boots at home.