President Obama, Global Leaders Mingle in Cannes

CANNES, France — While the first day of the G-20 summit was overshadowed by the European debt crisis and Greece’s political infighting, there was also plenty of room for pomp, circumstance and mingling between global leaders.

President Obama arrived at the official welcome ceremony this morning as trumpets blared and was greeted on the red carpet by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“I was hoping to come and see some movies,” the president was overheard saying, joking about the city’s famous film festival.

Later, while touting the strong U.S.-French alliance, Obama reflected on his time in France as a young man.

“The last time I was in the South of France – or the first time, rather, was as a college student, and I’ve never forgotten the extraordinary hospitality of the French people and the extraordinary views that are available here,” Obama said, although those famous views were obstructed today by rain and dreary clouds.

After a series of bilateral meetings and strategy sessions, the president had a chance to catch up with his global counterparts at lunch. Obama tested out his Chinese, offering President Hu Jintao of China a greeting of “ni hao,” before cordially shaking his hand.

Obama also said hello to Argentinean President Cristina Kirchner, congratulating her on her recent reelection. Obama, who is campaigning for his own reelection in 2012, jokingly told Sarkozy that “we all have to take lessons” from Kirchner’s victory.

Later in the afternoon, the leaders were wrangled together to pose for their “class photo.” Obama stood in the front row flanked by Sarkozy and Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. After diligently standing for a few minutes, Obama quipped, “One more time!” as he smiled and waved before everyone broke rank.

Then it was off to a working dinner, where all of the leaders signed the G20 guestbook upon arrival.

“To the People of France and Cannes – I am grateful for the wonderful hospitality, but even more grateful for the strong friendship and alliance between our two nations. May the bonds of our partnership strengthen in the years to come,” Obama wrote.