John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Ministers may miss out on 'silly shirt' photo at Apec

Ministers pose for a group photo after the APEC ministerial meeting in Vladivostok, Russia. Photo / AP
Ministers pose for a group photo after the APEC ministerial meeting in Vladivostok, Russia. Photo / AP

Forget worries about the European economy and a global financial meltdown. The really pressing question at this weekend's summit of Asia and Pacific Rim leaders is whether the Russians, as this year's hosts, will revive the Apec tradition of the "silly shirt" photo.

For much of the economic grouping's 23-year history, the leaders were fitted with something akin to the host country's national costume for the annual group portrait.

The attire has varied from bomber jackets to ponchos to what one wit unkindly described as something which "looked like gowns for pregnant bridesmaids".

That world leaders consequently looked a tad ridiculous was a useful reminder both to us and them that they were human after all.

However, staid Japan broke with tradition at the Yokohama meeting in 2010, with leaders wearing normal business suits for the still obligatory photograph.

United States president Barack Obama then suddenly cancelled plans for the leaders to don Hawaiian shirts at last year's get-together in Honolulu.

The omens do not look good for the costumes to make a return this year at Vladivostok. Although there has been no announcement, some Russian media have been quietly told by conference organisers that any thoughts of bringing back the idea have been dropped.

- NZ Herald

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