Airport visit 'purely for update'
By ANDY CLARK
BRITISH Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd looked relaxed in shirt sleeves and hard hat at the new airport construction site yesterday, despite the continued wrangling over finances and problems of delays.
Provisional Airport Authority representatives were keen to play down the controversial funding issues which still persist over the development of Chek Lap Kok, branding the visit to the site as purely a 'progress report'.
'Time was not set aside for detailed discussions of that nature,' said a spokesman.
Whatever Mr Hurd was thinking as he viewed the foundation work for the airport's new terminal, he certainly maintained the air of a man at ease.
And at least in front of the cameras he managed to smile and share a joke with PAA chief executive Dr Hank Townsend and Governor Chris Patten.
Only 30 minutes was set aside for the tour of the 837-hectare site.
The party used a Government Flying Service helicopter to whisk the British Foreign Secretary from his earlier engagements to circle the site several times before coming in for a ground inspection.
Upon landing on the newly constructed terra firma the party proceeded in a convoy of four-wheel-drive Land-Rovers for a trip across the expanse of virgin land that will eventually form one of the busiest airports in the world.
To mark the significance of the visit, a red-carpeted podium had been erected at a vantage point above the terminal foundations site and a graphic of the finished product was on view as a guide for the VIP group.
Looking suitably impressed at seeing the work in progress, a smiling, if silent, Mr Hurd turned for one last glance towards the cameras before heading back to his Land-Rover.
The trip was designed to give Mr Hurd an update on the airport development ahead of his meeting, in two weeks time, with Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen in New York.