SUMMIT NOTEBOOK: Chopper broken, Obama invites British PM Cameron into his for a lift

By Darlene Superville, AP
Saturday, June 26, 2010

SUMMIT NOTEBOOK: Obama, Cameron share helicopter

TORONTO — So just how special is the “special relationship” between the United States and Britain?

Very special indeed.

When British Prime Minister David Cameron needed a lift to Toronto on Saturday for the second of two weekend economic summits, President Barack Obama offered him a ride in his helicopter.

Cameron’s chopper apparently couldn’t fly through the fog over Huntsville, Ontario, where leaders of the eight industrialized nations had just wrapped up a meeting.

The weekend marked Obama’s first meeting with Cameron since the Conservative Party leader was elected in May. U.S. and British officials often speak warmly of the “special relationship” between the countries, and the shared chopper ride gave the two leaders a head start on the one-on-one meeting they held in the afternoon.

The Group of Eight leaders traveled to Toronto for a larger summit involving 19 countries and the European Union, known as the G-20.

Reporters brought in at the end of the formal meeting listened as Cameron thanks Obama for the lift.

“He threatened to send me a bill. But I said times are very tight in the U.K., so I’ll have to take that as a free lift,” Cameron joked.

Obama said Cameron was a model passenger. “He fastened his seat belt as he was supposed to,” Obama said.

Were they really talking about peace and security? Or were world leaders at the Group of Eight international summit just trash talking about World Cup soccer?

Reporters led into the room as the summit resumed Saturday morning at the bucolic Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ontario saw a rather animated bunch seated at a round table.

Obama sat between the leaders of France and Italy, whose teams have suffered the two biggest World Cup upsets so far. French President Nicolas Sarkozy gestured with his hands as he spoke to Obama, who flashed his broad smile and laughed. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi then joined the conversation.

Both France and Italy were knocked out of the tournament in the first round.

Across the G-8 circle, Cameron chatted with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel sitting in between them.

England plays Germany on Sunday.

Aha! Here’s the proof.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced later Saturday that Obama and Ghanian President John Atta Mills were “eagerly anticipating” the afternoon soccer match between their countries.

Gibbs said the leaders agreed that at their next meeting they will exchange team jerseys “in the spirit of camaraderie and sportsmanship” that they hoped to see on the playing field from their teams.

The matchup was a high-stakes one.

Obama watched the first few minutes of the second half before heading into a one-on-one meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. But Ghana won 2-1, eliminating the U.S. for the second straight World Cup.

The American team was trying to return to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002.

No drink. Just a clink of beer bottles after Obama and Cameron got down to business.

The two had wagered a beer two weeks ago when the U.S. and England faced off in the World Cup. But when the match ended in a 1-1 tie, they settled on an even exchange of brews.

Obama gave Cameron a bottle of Goose Island 312, a wheat ale brewed in the president’s hometown of Chicago. Cameron offered a Hobgoblin, a dark ruby beer from the Wychwood brewery in Witney, England.

Obama said his advice to Cameron was “that in America we drink our beer cold. So he has to put this in the refrigerator before he drinks it, but I think he will find it outstanding.

“And I”m happy to give that a shot, although I will not drink it warm,” Obama said, speaking of the Hobgoblin and the London pub tradition of drinking room temperature beer.

Cameron assured Obama that it would be OK to drink it cold. “It’s all right,” Cameron said.

At that point, cheers were exchanged and beer bottles clinked.

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