Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Towering Effort A[euro]" Bridge That Stopped a President

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Towering Effort A[euro]" Bridge That Stopped a President

Article excerpt

WHEN British businessman Sir Chay Blyth decided in 1997 to organise a rowing race across the Atlantic from England to America, he thought he'd publicise it by having some of the participants row up the River Thames to St Katherine's Dock, including passing under the iconic Tower Bridge.

But he didn't quite expect the publicity his little promotion would create a particularly in splitting a security convoy that had been weeks in the planning into two parts, and subsequently leaving one of the world's most powerful men, America's then president, Bill Clinton, on one side of the Thames, and most of his forward bodyguards and other security men on the other.

One of the rowing team's sponsors had taken some VIP clients aboard a little luxury yacht called Gladys to watch their team pass up the river. As has been tradition since the Tower Bridge was built a couple of centuries ago, when Gladys reached the bridge, and her masts were too tall to pass under, the operator raised its double-drawbridge roadway to give the yacht clear passage.

But Mr Clinton was returning late and behind schedule to the American Embassy from a lunch with then British prime minister, Tony Blair, at a restaurant on the banks of the Thames a and to the horror of his forward security detail who had already crossed the Tower Bridge and cleared traffic for the president's safe journey, the bridge suddenly opened behind them for yacht Gladys... exactly on a scheduled time previously agreed to by the Embassy.

A fuming Bill Clinton was left on one side of the Thames, and most of his security men on the other. When asked how the bridge could have been opened at such a delicate moment, even though Mr Clinton was late-running, a spokesman for the bridge told London media: aWe tried to contact the American Embassy, but they wouldn't answer their phone.a

The Tower Bridge was the second bridge built across the Thames in the centre of London, the first being London Bridge, made famous by the nursery rhyme, London Bridge is Falling Down.

The Tower Bridge was built in the second half of the 19th century during a boom in commercial activity in London's east, and to get around the long detour over London Bridge and haphazard ferry services. …

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