It Might Be the G-20, but London Is All About President Obama

As far as regular Brits are concerned, the other 19 leaders might as well stay home.

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BY Jane Ridley
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

LONDON - Twenty of the world's most powerful leaders descend on London this week but, as far as regular Brits are concerned, 19 of them might as well stay home.

Despite the desperate state of the economy, President Obama will get a rock-star reception on his first overseas trip since taking office.

Londoners are eagerly anticipating his three-day visit, which includes a private audience with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.

Amid frantic last-minute preparations and $7 million worth of security, most people here will follow every move of "His Barackness," as one London newspaper calls him, and, with equal fervor, each action - not to mention outfit - of the First Lady.

Mom-of-three Sophia Mwangi, 40, says the British black community regards Obama as family.

"He appeals to all races but, as the first black U.S. President, he is an inspiration to me and my family," says Mwangi, a charity worker who has aunts and uncles living in New York City.

"My 7-year-old son, Solomon, keeps asking us when we'll have a black prime minister. Now that Obama has broken through the ceiling in the U.S., we can tell him that it may happen soon."

Britons are fascinated by the First Family. Many will play hooky from school or work to catch a glimpse of them - or at least their fleet of heavily guarded limousines.

"To them, Barack and Michelle Obama are a 21st century version of the Kennedys with a dash of multicultural glamour," says Toby Harnden, U.S. editor of London's Daily Telegraph.

"He [is] the embodiment for Europeans of what an American President could be."

Bearing this out, a recent Financial Times poll found those here have even more trust in Obama than do Americans.

Writer Rosalind Wynne-Jones believes "a great wave of optimism" will accompany the U.S. commander in chief here.

"When Obama was inaugurated, everyone here felt the warm glow," she says. "People cried tears of joy.

"Michelle brings the 'Jackie O' factor. After the likes of Barbara and Laura Bush, it's exciting for us to have a style icon again."

The First Family arrives here tomorrow night. The President will be in meetings during much of Wednesday before he sees the queen in a brief but highly unusual getting-to-know-you session.

"Obviously, since they are not British subjects, he won't be expected to bow and Michelle will not curtsy," says Ingrid Seward, an expert on royal protocol.

"Since he is a charming man, I should imagine he would slightly incline his head out of respect as he shakes the queen's hand."

While the President and other G-20 leaders are in talks, Michelle Obama and other first spouses, including Carla Bruni, the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Sarah Brown, wife of British Prime Minster Gordon Brown, will hold what the press here is calling a "handbag summit."