Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Barcelona and the Mobile World Congress


Last week was the Mobile World Congress (MWC), previously known as the 3GSM Congress. It is the biggest of its kind in the telecoms sector and people come from all over the world to attend. It used to be held in Cannes but nowadays it takes place in Barcelona. I heard from the taxi drivers there that this is the biggest conference of the year in Barcelona and that over 55.000 delegates attend. They also told me it’s the congress that moves the most amount of money! Well, it sure is big and it sure is noisy but I love going because I get to see so many familiar faces.

This year I took both girls with me for the ride. They were also going to work as “super promoters” at the Nokia party which is the biggest and most glamorous party at the MWC.

We travelled together and at check in I asked for a room with an extra bed. But, oh dear, we were told they didn’t have any. Luckily the bed turned out to be enormous. It was at least 2 metres wide and long so the 3 of us fitted in fine with plenty of room in between. The worst thing for me was the mattress. It was so hard I hardly got a wink of sleep the whole week. We stayed at the Hotel Eurostars Angli which is incredibly modern. The window took up one whole wall. I never got to fully understand how the lights worked or the remote controlled functions. The shower and bath needed an instruction manual which wasn’t there and one morning only boiling hot water seemed to come out of the tap. Great place but we are not going back, sorry.

The girls having breakfast in the room
The time in between professional activities was mostly dedicated to enjoying Barcelona’s culinary delights. In fact a lot of professional activities were too! I must thank my journalist friend Carmen Jané for all her recommendations which I followed religiously throughout the week.

So Sunday lunch had us eating at Agua, a great place in the Olympic port right by the beach. Julio and Paloma, my friends from Nokia Siemens Networks joined us for coffee and we captured the moment with a group photo on the beach itself. Paloma kindly offered to organise our registration passes and thus saved me from a 2 hour queue the next day at the Fira where the Congress was held.

On the beach in Barcelona
The evening was spent with my dear friend and ex school companion Grainne who lives in Badalona. I hadn’t seen her for at least 3 years and she’s always great company to be with. We went to her favourite steak place and then went back to her flat where we met her son Marcel who I hadn’t seen since he was 6 and he is now 23!!!

Masha and Grainne - Badalona, 40 years on!!!
The week was full of activity, one of the highlights being lunch with Carlos Prieto on Monday at Ca Pinxo. They have great sea food and the weather was good enough for us to eat outside. Carlos is an ex colleague from my Motorola days who now works for HP in Munich. He heads up sales for 3G integrated laptops in Europe. We reminisced a lot but specially about our cycling days with the Motorola Cycling Team. The names of Lance Armstrong and Hennie Kuiper came up, the latter very fondly too.

Carlos Prieto
Another highlight was coffee with dear Emilio Brambilla at the NSN hospitality suite at the Congress. Trying to find my friend Viivii was like playing hide and seek but we made it. I would loved to have seen more of my best friend Fátima who looked like she was going to have apoplexy at any moment with the stress of managing her customers’ registration passes. We did manage to get 5 minutes together at the NSN hospitality suite as you can see from the picture!

Fátima and me at the NSN hospitality suite
I took advantage of being in Barcelona to meet the Communications Director of the CMT (the Spanish telecoms market regulator). He works in the Mapfre tower which is a twin tower of the Hotel Arts. His office on the 29th floor has the most stunning views!!! We had lunch at another restaurant recommended by Carmen called Bestial and it really is “bestial”, meaning the best or the greatest in Spanish

We also managed to see dear friends Berk and Julia and went to L'Escola for dinner, this great catering training school restaurant. Berk who is Turkish I knew from Nokia. Nowadays he has a company which is supplying the likes of Zara and Bershka with textiles from Turkey and China. Wow Berk, I am impressed. Julia who is Austrian is a friend of the girls from their time in Finland and Spain on the N-Gage Tour. It was lovely to see the 2 of them again.

Dinner with Julia and Berk at L'Escola.
Midweek I treated the girls and myself to an hour long massage followed by a manicure at a great beauty salon called Augusta Natural on Vía Augusta near our hotel. This was a luxury but something much needed if I, at least, were to survive till Thursday.

Wednesday was my big day with 2 press conferences, one after the other in a Hotel in La Rambla. The first one was starting at 9 but we had to be there at 8 for preparations and the second one started at 12. I didn’t finish till around 15 when I went back exhausted to my hotel. Thankfully my business lunch that day was cancelled.

Wednesday night brought the celebration of the famous Nokia party. 3.500 people attended. I was told the tickets were worth more than 200 euros each, making the whole budget possibly over 700 million euros! That’s quite a lot for one night. As usual it was great. I was so excited to see so many familiar faces, old colleagues and friends that I never remembered to eat. I did remember to drink though and went a bit over the limit which I later regretted as I had a hang over during the night and in the morning!! I am getting too old for this.

My favourite Nokia boys (Dulanto, Pedro, Pepe Comas and Roberto) and me at the Nokia party. Great to see you!!
It was great to see: Agustin, JTB, Marianne, Peter Green, Roberto, Pepe Comas, Juan Dulanto, Pedro Molpeceres, Cristina Miranda, Michael Winkelmann, Philip Parfitt, Tuula Putkinen, Ben and a whole load of other people I hadn’t seen for ages.

The girls worked very hard that night with the Ramblas Digital team doing the interactive videos of the guests. I am anxiously awaiting mine.

That night and the next and final day of my stay in Barcelona – St. Valentine’s - I paid heavily for my sins of excess. My head was in a bad way. I was supposed to attend a conference at 14h but decided that enough was enough and it was time to go home. The girls’ flight was later in the evening. And you know the end of the story. Dear Eladio picked me up at the airport with a wonderful bunch of red roses.

End of story and a good time was had by all. See you next year Barcelona!


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