G-20 FEVER is in the air as Pittsburgh prepares for the summit of world leaders on Sept. 24-25. The Hilton hotel, one of the first buildings seen by visitors as they come down the ramp from the Fort Pitt Bridge, is doing something about its construction eyesore. Instead of naked beams from a stalled project -- the contractor walked off the job because the Hilton's owners did not pay for the work -- a solid banner will be put up to hide the hotel's shame and, by extension, Pittsburgh's embarrassment. The banner will read "Pittsburgh Welcomes the World" and will include the flags of the participating nations plus plugs for the summit and the hotel. The mesh banner, which needs final approval from the city, will measure nearly 6,000 square feet and will be fabricated in three parts. It will also feature green leaves to symbolize green development in the city. They ought to be green fig leaves, the traditional choice to cover parts not fit for the public gaze. Of course, it would have been better had the hotel paid its bills in the first place, but at least something has been done to cover up.
IN PUTTING the city's best face to the world, Pittsburghers aren't forgetting its virtual face on the Web. Several Web sites are preparing to act as guides to which people can make their own contributions. The Mattress Factory last week unveiled www.MyG20.org, "a real-time, crowd-curated guide to Pittsburgh that will take place prior to and during the G-20 summit" (crowd-curated means people can post messages via such avenues as Twitter). VisitPittsburgh is doing its thing with an online press room, www.g20pittsburghsummit.org, which will be tweeting this week. Even Bayer Corp., the maker of aspirin and other drugs, has a site -- www.bayerg20pittsburgh.com (might be the place to go if the summit causes headaches). But with all due modesty, we think the best site will be the Post-Gazette's own. Our interactive community site will start in September, but for the moment good information can be found at www.post-gazette.com/g20summit/.
THE ECONOMIC summit should be a learning moment for the city's children, but whatever they learn will have to be before or after. The school board voted to close all 66 Pittsburgh Public Schools during the summit because of concerns about traffic disruptions, other logistical problems and even fears for the children's safety. The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh announced that it would cancel classes at 13 elementary and four high schools, all in the city limits. With much of Pittsburgh preparing to batten down the hatches, the school closings are only prudent. Our guess is that the kids may form a good impression of the G-20 on their own -- anything that brings some days off when the weather is still nice can't be all bad.