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Minneapolis, St. Paul Gear Up for Republican Convention


The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in the state of Minnesota are gearing up to host the Republican National Convention in early September with 45,000 visitors expected, as well as an influx of media organizations. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from St. Paul that accommodating the media in an age of rapidly changing technology is a big challenge for convention organizers.

Republican National Convention Preparation

As signs go up outside…work goes on inside the Xcel Energy Center to transform the ice hockey stadium into the showcase of the Republican Party.

Convention Press Secretary Joanna Burgos says the goal is to make the event accessible to those not actually there.

"A big focus for this year's convention is to actually engage people at home and to make people at home feel like they are part of the convention," Burgos said. "And the way to do that is to accommodate the media."

Republicans are catering to roughly 15,000 accredited members of the media. They hope to make this the most technologically advanced convention they have organized.

Convention Media Resources

Since the Republican National Convention in Miami in 1972, technology has come a long way. Mike Miller managed the setup of that convention and is setting up this one.

"Back then you had three networks, and they pretty well dominated television," Miller said. "Now you know what television is like. With the proliferation of cable and other networks and then of course the Internet came. They came in a little bit in 1996 and have been growing ever since where we have a tremendous influx of bloggers this year."

A special section of the Xcel Center will be specifically for bloggers. They report and post to various websites and need fast and accessible Internet connections.

This year, the Beijing Olympics are taking place close -- in time -- to the Democratic Convention in Denver and the Republicans in St. Paul.

Miller says that is stretching the media's resources.

"In the production side and theatrical side, they've had to plan ahead for that very reason, because there can be a shortage of certain things like uplink trucks, and other things that you need," her said.

Finalizing Convention Site Groundwork

Miller doesn't expect problems or delays in completing work at the convention site.

Local workers are available. They fall under the direction of the convention's general contractor, Greg Lane.

"We're in the 300 plus range with the electricians and people working on the stages, platforms, and media areas," he said.

The number is expected to grow as the September 1 start of the convention draws near.

The final night of the convention -- when Senator John McCain will accept his party's nomination -- is the most rewarding moment for Miller.

"I like to see the last night with all the balloons coming down and the nominees celebrating and then to relax when it's over," he said.

But for John McCain, there will be no repose. The last night of the convention marks the beginning of the final, intense, months of the presidential campaign. It ends with the election on November 4.

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