Big is beautiful

With Africans in brightly-coloured dress and Japanese resplendent in
traditional costume, a canal boat, carousel and helter skelter, the
100th Rotary International Convention was a dazzling, if somewhat
unusual affair.

Rotary International is a global network of professional people with
1.2 million members in 168 countries. Held at the NEC, the 100th
convention attracted some 20,000 ‘Rotarians’ from 156 countries for
four days of networking, plenary sessions and social events.

The gathering, which generated more than £24 million for Birmingham’s
economy (20 per cent more than forecast), is a feather in the cap of
the NEC, says its managing director, Kathryn James. “It’s a validation
of what this venue was established to do. We are designed for big
events. It is where we shine.”

That the event took place in Birmingham at all is testament to the
partnership approach adopted by a number of organisations, such as
Birmingham City Council, The NEC Group, West Midlands Police, transport
providers and hoteliers, as well as the Rotary Host Organising
Committee. Support was also received from the £2 million subvention
fund created by Birmingham City Council and managed by Marketing
Birmingham to attract and promote major events.

“We had initially bid for the 2013 event in 2006, but lost out to
Lisbon. We’d kept in contact with the organisation and they called us
in June 2007 asking for help,” says commercial director of Visit
Birmingham, Ian Taylor.

Korea, which was due to host the 2009 convention, had pulled out and
Rotary International wanted to know if Birmingham could get a bid
together in double quick time.

“Rotary International plans its events seven years in advance. We’d
hosted the 75th convention in 1984 and they approached us for the 2009
event because they were confident we could deliver with only a two-year
planning window,” says James.

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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