Those who were yesterday at the meeting of the organizers of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) with the administrations to study the consequences of canceling a congress of these dimensions commented that they saw John Hoffman, the most visible face of the fair, “touched”. It has not been an easy decision to cancel a contest that has a economic impact in Barcelona of about 492 million euros and generates 14,100 temporary jobs. Moreover, when in other fairs, such as the one organized in Amsterdam these days by the image and sound systems industry, Intel and Sony, companies that have unsubscribed in Barcelona, have exhibited their novelties there. But, above all, while the health authorities insisted that “there is no public health reason to suspend the meeting.”
So why has it been suspended? The GSMA, the association of operators that organizes the congress, would have lost it if Spain had declared the health alert, because now it would have more guarantees to deal with an avalanche of claims for cancellation. But the real risk of contracting the coronavirus in Barcelona, today, is low. On the Peninsula there was no contagion. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also failed to declare the risk of a global pandemic. And yesterday, the repatriated Spaniards of Wuhan were discharged after having spent the quarantine period in a military hospital in Madrid.
For administrations, it has been suspended because the epidemic of fear of the coronavirus has succeeded in knocking down the appointment. Although the heads of the GSMA, Hoffman and Mats Granryd, the general director, explained it in other words and said they have been forced to suspend the congress for “a cause of force majeure.” It is an important nuance for them. Because the Civil Code releases liability for damages in fortuitous cases that are beyond the control of the organizers of a contest, such as a war, a fire or the panic generated by the coronavirus that motivated the chain of casualties of the participants. This is the wild card of the organization for not paying exhibitors and suppliers.
Thus, Hoffman and Granryd wove the argument of their defense to ensure that the force majeure clause they have in the contracts is analyzed against possible claims.
For now, neither the GSMA nor Fira de Barcelona know who will pay the “party” that Foment del Treball figures at 500 million euros. “It is a very significant amount that we will assume the entrepreneurs of the hospitality, catering, mobility and those who have participated in the construction of the facilities,” said its president, Josep Sánchez Llibre. For the Fira de Barcelona, the cancellation of the MWC is a blow. This congress represents a third of its turnover, which last year was 215 million. But, for now, he prefers to negotiate other compensations, such as extending the contract that ends in 2023.
Attempts to save the appointment
Neither Ada Colau, nor the Generalitat nor the Government spoke of compensation. Administrations donate 15 million each year to the Mobile World Capital Foundation. But their marriage is a 14-year success story and they don’t want money to spoil the relationship. The administrations closed ranks with the GSMA, expressed “respect” for their decision and set out to organize the best edition of the MWC in 2021. “We look forward to hosting all our partners here in 2021,” said Hoffman. «Today is a very dark day. But we know that the sun will shine. This goes from the future, goes from our future together, ”he reiterated.
“It was not a decision against Barcelona or Spain, it was a force majeure decision,” Granryd insisted. Hoffman explained that the Mobile receives 8,000 presidents from companies around the world, that many panicked and decided not to come, and the fear spread to all levels. Not only was there fear of contagion, but also that they were forced to remain in quarantine after the congress and not be able to take over their respective businesses. In addition to large companies, small and medium-sized companies, without so much gesticulation, they also unsubscribed. “When the ecosystem for doing business is altered, it makes no sense to get together,” Hoffman concluded.
The attempt to save the Mobile failed. «We thought about reducing the congress, but the clients told us they would not come. Then, we talked about postponing it, although it was impossible to know when the coronavirus will remit. Therefore, we decided not to celebrate it, that was the only option, ”concluded Hoffman.
The Spaniards of Wuhan are discharged: “You can kiss us safely”
«They arrived healthy and they leave healthy: that nobody gives them of side». This is how bluntly the nurse supervisor of the Gómez Ulla hospital in Madrid, Pilar Cadenas, wanted to show up at a press conference after discharging twenty Spanish people (including two minors) who, until yesterday, remained under surveillance in the 12th floor of the military hospital. The “survivors” of the coronavirus returned home after the quarantine period was asymptomatic after being repatriated from Wuhan on January 31. While health personnel wanted to emphasize the importance of normalizing the situation, one of them, Pedro Morilla, read a letter from everyone to thank “for life” the treatment of health personnel for making them “so bearable” isolation. Along the same lines that doctors remembered that they can be given “hugs and kisses without any danger.”