The past week in Duesseldorf, Germany was – to put it lightly – momentous.The city put itself front and center on the international stage in more ways that one, and admirably once again demonstrated that it is comfortable player among the first-tier of world-class cities.
|In the span of a week, Duesseldorf hosted not only the world’s largest and leading international packaging trade show, interpack, it also simultaneously hosted the renowned Eurovision Song Contest at the Esprit Arena, adjacent to the Duesseldorf fairgrounds.|
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Eurovision Song Contest, this event is perhaps one of the most watched annual TV spectacles in Europe. Each European country submits a single band or singer performing a single song in a viewer / voter elimination contest, and then on the final night after the field has been narrowed to just 25 countries – the whole of Europe votes for their favorite by text-message voting.
The air was electrified on Saturday evening, May 14. The city of Duesseldorf turned into one giant block party as thousands converged to the old city and the banks of the Rhine River to watch live coverage on outdoor large screens of the events inside the Arena. Restaurants, bars and nightclubs were packed to overflowing and the narrow streets outside were full as everyone watched and waited to find out this year’s winner, Azerbaijan (Europe!?) for its contestants’ (Ell/Nikk) entry Running Scared.
At right: Nikki Jamal and Eldar Kasimov of Ell/Nikki representing Azerbaijan celebrate on Saturday, May 14, 2011 with the Eurovision trophy and their national flag after winning the Grand Final of the 56th Eurovision Song Contest. © AFP/GETTY IMAGES
On the dual track, interpack returned to the Duesseldorf fairgrounds also to rave reviews and a palpable perception that the industry is once again on the uptick. Featuring over 2,700 exhibitors from 60 countries, the show attracted a total of 166,000 trade visitors – 60 percent from outside of Germany. Particularly striking was the further significant increase in the proportion of decision-makers attending the show over the previous staging in 2008. Almost three quarters of trade visitors reported they came from management with decision making authority – a remarkable figure!
At the same time SAVE FOOD International Congress was held, highlighting the ongoing conflict between nutrition, packaging and sustainability. In collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), this meeting attracted some 300 participants and dignitaries who discussed the magnitude and causes of global food waste and explored the contribution that improved packaging could make in the fight against food waste.
And Duesseldorf handled all these important international events with flair. For a week under sunny skies the city became the international stage for business and culture, a remarkable feat that many other aspiring cities undoubtedly envy and aspire to.