SINGAPORE - The more than 3,000 journalists expected to arrive here to cover the summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 will work from the F1 Pit Building in downtown Singapore.
When The Straits Times visited the venue at about 1pm on Tuesday (June 5), preparations were in full swing.
Barricades, air-conditioning units and other fixtures were seen outside some ground-floor garages, while rooms on the second floor were filled with long tables covered in white tablecloths and blue and white skirting, each featuring several power points.
Blue chairs were also seen stacked outside one of the rooms.
On the third floor, workers were seen constructing walled structures in one of the rooms.
The centre already hosts journalists from around the world each time the Formula 1 race comes around in September.
However, the summit's International Media Centre is expected to occupy more of the building than the one for the Singapore F1 Grand Prix typically does.
The centre will have several sections, including a media briefing room, a dining room and a media lounge with settee seats, and will be spread out over all three floors of the building.
The pit building, construction of which started in 2007, was completed in just 10 months. It cost $40 million and has a gross floor area of 23,000 sq m.
For the night race, the 350m-long building houses 36 garages for the 12 F1 teams, race control facilities, winners' podium and hospitality lounges for 4,000 guests.
During the non-race period, nine hospitality suites on the second and third levels and four garages on the ground floor of the Pit Building, which is owned by the Singapore Tourism Board, are available for rent. Permissible uses include art galleries, concerts and events.
The building, located off Republic Boulevard and adjacent to the Singapore Flyer, is close to several luxury hotels, such as Marina Bay Sands and The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, as well as the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.
However, it remains unclear if the choice of the media centre location provides any indication of the venue for the summit.
On Monday (June 4), the Government declared the area surrounding the Shangri-La Hotel a "special event area" for the period of June 10 to 14, for the upcoming summit. The pit building lies outside that delineated "special event area", about 5km away.
Businesses in the neighbouring Singapore Flyer are bracing themselves for a surge in business, with some planning to deploy extra manpower to cope with expected demand.
A spokesman for the Singapore Flyer said that it is working with the Singapore Tourism Board to roll out special flight offerings for visiting media who will be housed next door for summit coverage.
Sandwich chain Subway will be extending hours at its Singapore Flyer outlet until midnight between Saturday (June 9) and next Tuesday (June 12) to cater to increased business, it said in response to queries. The outlet normally closes between 9.30pm and 10pm.
Mr Bhandari Rajender Kumar, owner of Bhandari’s Saffron restaurant, said that events held nearby, such as Beerfest and the National Day Parade, help to boost sales by up to 30 per cent.
“We haven’t been told anything yet, but we are looking forward to it – we will come up with special promotions for the media,” said Mr Bhandari, 61. Additional chefs and wait staff will also be brought over from other outlets next week, he added.
A staff member at gelato shop Gelatissimo said that events help to bring much needed foot traffic to the area. The shop extends business hours during major events, and sales during the annual F1 night race typically double.
Mr Benjamin Soh, an assistant at Kenko Reflexology and Fish Spa, said that the outlet’s focus on fish therapy – in which visitors dip their feet in pools of water for fish to eat away at their dead skin – may be a unique draw for weary members of the foreign media.
While business took a hit when the Flyer suspended operations for more than two months earlier this year due to a technical issue, it has rebounded since reopening in April, he said.
“We’re still trying to bring our sales numbers up, so hopefully next week will help. If need be, we will bring over more masseuses,” said Mr Soh, 19.
The meeting has garnered significant media interest, and throngs of journalists are expected to be here by June 12.
Pan Pacific Singapore, located about 1km away from the F1 Pit Building, said that it will be stepping up security around the summit dates.
“In addition to our CCTV coverage and other hotel security measures in place, our associates and security team have been briefed to be more vigilant, and patrols around the hotel premises will be increased to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests,” said general manager Gino Tan.
The Straits Times understands that NHK, Japan's national public broadcaster, has booked flights and hotels for about 100 people, including correspondents from around the world.
The BBC is said to be sending about 80 journalists.
The Straits Times understands that about 100 journalists from South Korea, including those from the Blue House and Foreign Ministry press pool, will be covering the summit in Singapore. Another 100 Seoul-based foreign journalists are also expected to arrive here over the next week.
Chosun Ilbo and JoongAng Ilbo - South Korea's two largest newspapers - are sending journalists to cover the summit. KBS, South Korea's largest public broadcaster, plans to send 60 to 70 staff, including journalists, producers and camera crew. Arirang TV, the country's official English TV, is also sending its team to Singapore.
The White House press corps is said to be operating its own media centre for journalists who travel with the president. Sources say they could be staying at JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach. A spokesman for JW Marriott declined to comment, citing the privacy of the hotel’s guests.
The White House press corps usually numbers between 50 and 100 for overseas trips.
Additional reporting by Chang May Choon and Nirmal Ghosh