Obama arrived 8 minutes early, Swedish Television caught napping

It has been a glorious day in Stockholm today. Blue skies, sunshine, 20°C and Obama touched down 8 minutes early. His arrival was being carried live by Swedish TV (Sveriges Television) on one channel and by Independent TV on another.  The Swedish TV channel literally “blacked-out” for about 5 minutes but the Independent channel coped though their audio feed went haywire for a few minutes.

Somebody should have told Obama that the correct form would have been to circle around in a little loop and land precisely on time. While punctuality is almost a religion here, and being late is a qualifier for eternal damnation, being early is not considered very polite either.

I remember the birthday parties for our kids when we were still new to Sweden and I could not quite understand why all the guests – and their parents – were hanging about down the street for a good 5 to 10 minutes before ringing the bell precisely – but precisely – at the appointed time. Mind you I quickly grew to appreciate that punctuality. Especially the custom of always having a  specified start and an end time for birthday parties. The relief after four hours of enduring 30 hyperactive kids when they all disappear at exactly the stipulated time is something close to ecstasy!!

Half the day’s program is over. A joint press conference with the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt has been held. Nothing of any great significance was said. The full transcript is here. The most profound part was when Obama said:

It’s only been a short time, but I already want to thank all the people here for the warm hospitality that’s been extended to me and my delegation. This is truly one of the world’s great cities. It is spectacularly beautiful. The prime minister tells me that the weather is like this year ‘round. 

Only 2 Swedish journalists were permitted to ask questions and behaved themselves very correctly. Of course Syria and Putin and the NSA came up but little was said beyond the level of platitudes. Reinfeldt took the opportunity to mention that Sweden would now give refugees/ asylum seekers from Syria permanent residency and thereby avoided having to support or condemn military action.

But this is the first ever bilateral visit by a serving US President to Sweden and the value is more symbolic and it would be quite wrong to expect this visit to contain much substance on controversial matters. I had lunch today at my circular club and there was some little comment about the “circus” but nobody was really negative to Obama’s visit. Most were quite pleased that the President of the USA was visiting little Sweden.

Apart from the little TV glitch, everything else seems to have gone according to plan.

So far so good.

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