At the ExCeL exhibition centre in Canning Town, 1700 companies were displaying their wares. British soldiers – ‘military escort officers’ – looked after delegations from all over the world. They took them to their hotels and they took them shopping. One escort told me that the Angolans were on the hunt for helicopters and the Egyptians were after surveillance equipment. A delegation from the UAE lingered at the stall of the Italian firm Cristanini: a woman in a camouflage cocktail dress and knee-high boots stood in front of a display of decontamination equipment, for use after chemical or biological attacks.