So anticipated and yet sometimes so feared. The typical Christmas lunch or dinner with the company or the family can be the most fun event of the year, or just the opposite. This traditional festive get-together with its elaborate menu and a drink or three can turn into a rather stressful experience, especially if it’s your turn to sit next to the boss or your pompous brother-in-law, or choose the restaurant, organize and decorate the table, or even find room and cook for 10, 15 or even 20 guests in your own home.
But all of this is nothing compared to the mega-dining room that was recently set up by GastroFira at Fira de Barcelona for no less than 5,000 congress delegates attending an event organized by Microsoft at the Gran Via venue. It called for 460 tables, 4,680 chairs, 9,000 plates, 18,000 pieces of cutlery, 460 salt and pepper cellars and 1,928 metres of napkins to prepare a dining room of 17,000 square metres, which took two full days and a team of 60 people to set up. But that’s not all. A total of 45 cooks and 114 waiters served 18,0000 bread rolls and thousands of dishes to suit every possible taste and requirement (kosher, halal, vegetarian, vegan, lactose-intolerant and coeliac) involving nine tonnes of food.
And, as is so often the case at home when the leftovers are used to fill an array of Tupperware containers with enough food to feed the family for a week, the surplus food from this major event was donated to NGO ‘Nutrition without Borders’ for distribution to the social canteens managed by the organization.
No other restaurant or dining room could ever be big enough to celebrate a business or family meal with so many diners. This is only possible at Fira de Barcelona.
In a couple of days, every one of the 2,400 volunteers for TV3’s ‘La Marató’ telethon will be answering a call for solidarity, a small but crucial gesture that helps to save lives. Over the last 23 editions, this broadcast event has managed to raise over 142 million euros, which have been used to support 723 research projects into diseases that are still incurable.
At Fira de Barcelona, everything is just about ready for La Marató 2015, which this year takes place on Sunday 13 December. The institution, which this year is hosting the exhibition “A look at the values of La Marató”, is once again lending Hall 1 of the Montjuïc Exhibition Centre as the main donation centre. This has entailed the installation of 776 telephone lines – of the 1,000 lines across the whole of Catalonia – which will be manned by over 1,600 volunteers, ready and waiting to receive thousands of calls over the 15 hours of the live broadcast.
This year’s programme is dedicated to diabetes and obesity. “The terrifying thing” about these diseases, in line with the mind-boggling style of the spot directed by Catalan cineaste Jaume Balagueró, is the lack of knowledge about them. The hard truth is that one in every four of us suffers from diabetes or obesity, yet half of us are completely unaware of this fact.
Apart from raising funds, the awareness that La Marató raises outside the television studios is incredibly important. As part of the event more than 2,000 public activities are being organized in 680 towns involving one million participants. This represents a bona fide social movement which will undoubtedly inject further funds into the programme’s ‘scoreboard’ but, above all, makes La Marató a real festival of solidarity.
La Marató phone number: 905 11 50 50
Ready? Destination: California Endless beaches, golden sands, the ocean, the desert, palm trees and heat. These images sum up the palette of colours in denim fashion for the Spring/Summer 2017 season: the ochres of the sand dunes and the blues of the ocean imbue ultra-lightweight fabrics to cope with the high temperatures. Shirts weighing less than 130 grams combined with sandy-hued jeans make up the basic look for a spring that in California lasts all year long.
Minimalist style lives happily alongside the baroque details than embellish certain outfits: fabrics are covered with metallic appliqués or vintage/romantic embellishments such as flowers, clover leaves and other delicate outlines in brightly-coloured or shimmering embroidery. An alternative is provided by clothes in jacquard fabrics or naïf prints which bring a fresh, light-hearted feel.
The last edition of Denim Première Vision at Fira de Barcelona in November showcased all the latest trends in jeans fashion for summer 2017, in a recreation of a luxurious Californian mansion that housed all the fashion secrets of the upcoming season.
However, the most important trend was not so much in the image as in the production process: technology is an increasingly important factor in the denim value chain, from the manufacture of threads through to garment-making and finishes, to achieve the utmost sustainability in every process. An example of how fashion can’t possibly be fashionable if it’s not also environmentally-friendly. And even less so in California!
In the 1920s, European and American cities were in economic, cultural and political overdrive and it was in the midst of this social effervescence, at the beginning of the century, that great advances were introduced and popularized which changed the face of cities and how people lived in them.
The spread of electric light and drinking water into homes, the popularization of the radio, the invention of the television, the first mass-produced car, public bus companies and the golden age of the tram marked the first steps towards smart cities.
It was also at that time, in 1924, when the ‘Gran Metro de Barcelona’ underground railway was put into operation, representing a major step forward for mobility in the early 20th century city. It was also a symbol of modernity for a city that enjoyed a reputation of always being at the forefront of technology and knowledge.
In 2015, as a nod to all those ‘smart cities’ which have pioneered sustainable mobility over the last century, the organizers of the fifth edition of BcnRail-Smart Mobility, in a joint initiative with TMB (Metropolitan Transport of Barcelona), offered attendees of Fira de Barcelona’s International Railway Industry Trade Show the chance to travel aboard the train that inaugurated the first stretch of the ‘Gran Metro de Barcelona’.
The legendary 300-series train came out of its engine shed to relive a historical journey which back then used to cover the 2,470 metres of track connecting the stations of Lesseps and Catalunya on Barcelona’s first metro line. These trains, built between 1920 and 1923 by the now defunct firm, the Euskalduna Company for the Construction and Repair of Ships of Bilbao, were in operation until 1987. To mark the 75th anniversary of the Barcelona metro in 1999, three of the 300-series coaches were restored, and they now make up the TMB’s historic train.
Coming back to Fira de Barcelona’s Gran Via Exhibition Centre, the fifth edition of BcnRail leaps forward 91 years to demonstrate how technical progress continues today with trains that travel at 380 km/h, revolutionary systems for energy savings and new technological advances in both the domestic and international railway industry which is still, a century later, an essential agent for Smart mobility.
The Nobel Laureates are holding their fifteenth summit at Fira de Barcelona’s Conference Centre to discuss the dramatic refugee situation. This is the first time they have met officially in Barcelona, but certainly not the first time many of them have visited the city. Barcelona is a long-standing friend of many Nobel prize-winners in various disciplines. Peace, literature and science…
Let’s start with peace: both Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1980) and Rigoberta Menchú (1992) have taken part in numerous activities to uphold human rights. Moreover, Pérez Esquivel, a sculptor by profession, has a monument to Gandhi in the Poblenou district.
Yet in the last century the visit of these two Nobel winners revolutionized the city. Albert Einstein, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, visited Barcelona in 1923 to give courses organized by the Council of Catalonia. Twenty-five years later, in May 1948, the discoverer of penicillin, Alexander Fleming, held conferences and meetings with the scientific world here.
Still in the field of science, the Nobel Prize winner for Medicine in 1906, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, was a professor at the Barcelona Faculty of Medicine between 1887 and 1892 where he made some significant findings on nerve cells.
In the 1970s, Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa both lived in the city, exponents of the boom in Latin American literature and both Nobel prize-winners. It was also common to see José Saramago here, who won his Nobel prize in 1998 and has left us with his legacy: the Saramago Chair at the UAB which fosters historical and cultural relations with Portugal. Indeed, Barcelona’s three universities have an ongoing relationship with Nobel prize-winners in various fields, who are often called upon to discuss the role of education and universities.
And finally, Nobel prize-winners also visit Fira de Barcelona. The inaugural address of the 2008 Expoquimia trade show was given by Physics Nobel prize-winner Kurt Wüthrich, who had won six years earlier.
Over the course of the summit, these relationships will be sustained and strengthened.
The people who predicted the future years ago forecast that by 2015 cars would be flying… and if you don’t believe me, ask Robert Zemeckis, director of the film Back To The Future. But what they could never have imagined is that cars could be driven… without drivers. And this is a reality in the 21st century, a reality that will be one of the big attractions at the next Smart City Expo.
The fifth edition of the event will showcase the EasyMile and its EZ10, an autonomous electric car developed jointly by two French companies: the micro car manufacturer Ligier Group and the robotics specialist Robosoft.
Equipped with a lithium battery that gives it 14 hours’ autonomy, the EasyMile is a minibus with a capacity of 12 people, and while its cruising speed is 20 kilometres per hour it can reach a maximum of 40 kph. Given its characteristics, this is the ideal vehicle for short hops such as airport shuttles, logistics centres, university campuses and industrial parks.
To be able to move around without a driver, the EZ10 has a GPS system and four cameras (two at the front and two at the rear) which enable it to adapt to any kind of route and deal with the obstacles it finds along the way.
Visitors to the Smart City Expo can take a ride around the Gran Via Exhibition Centre where the event is taking place on an EZ10… a science fiction-type experience that is actually real, here and now, in 2015 rather than the DeLorean of Back To The Future in which Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) traversed time to 21 October 2015.
The executive looking for clients for the new products being presented by his company, based on an industrial estate outside Valencia.
The entrepreneur from Lleida who can’t wait to attend the conference given by Mark Zuckerberg at the Mobile World Congress.
The family from Barcelona who never, ever miss the Children’s Festival.
The growers’ cooperative from Galicia that has come to launch a new wine on the market.
The manufacturer of electronic components who wants to grow internationally.
The group of cardiologists from Boston who gave presentations at the congress and want to explore Barcelona and its gastronomy.
The group of electronic music fans who meet up with their friends from Amsterdam every year.
The president of a business association from Madrid.
A restaurateur. A salesman. A techie. A taxi driver. A lecturer at the Polytechnic University…
All of them have in common a special relationship with Fira de Barcelona. In their own way, they form part of the universe of this institution which has been described as an economic driving force, a key element of internationalization, and a generator of wealth and wellbeing in terms of the money spent and invested in the region and its impact on companies and jobs, and indeed on the public as a whole.
This has been calculated recently by Fira de Barcelona thanks to a survey conducted by ESADE Business School: the economic impact of its activities amounts to over 2,620 million euros per year and more than 40,500 jobs.
But this survey has also enabled us to discover something more, which is something we had always suspected: the activities of Fira go way beyond the strictly economic sphere to become a tool for the creation of public and social value.
Amongst other virtues that can be laid at the door of the trade fair institution, and purely by way of example, these include: fostering cross-cutting contacts between companies that generate ideas and innovations; providing a public space of 400,000 square metres not only for trade fairs but also for meetings, events and recreational and social activities; helping to expand the true metropolitan area of the city; boosting the social cohesion that emerges from the new opportunities, contacts and trends that emanate from its congresses and trade shows; and enhancing Barcelona’s cosmopolitan nature and position as a major world city and a showcase and driver of innovation.
This week has seen the marking of world breast cancer awareness day, addressing a disease that has a better outlook every year, thanks to the latest advances and research, which appear to have attained what only a few years back could only be considered science fiction: the availability of personalised medicines and treatments to fight illnesses which, until a few years ago, were incurable.
That is, at least, the strategy championed by Dr. M
anel Esteller, Director of Epigenetics and Biology of Cancer at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (Idibell), and one of the world’s foremost scientists in this field.
According to Esteller, the fight against cancer is being waged on three fronts: “One is that of creating more personalised medicine, based on greater knowledge of alterations in the genetic material of a specific tumour in a specific patient. A second one is that we are asking ourselves about the cellular and molecular mechanisms that trigger metastasis. And a third one is that we want to learn more about what is done by that part of the genome that does not create proteins, and which we call the dark genome”.
Key in this regard may be Epigenetics, a field in which Esteller is an international reference, and which he defines as “that activity or function of genes which does not depend on the gene sequence but on external factors; that is, a way of fine tuning our genome”. And as the doctor explains “in all human tumours there are alterations in their genetic material, in their DNA, which contribute to their origin and to their progression”.
In any case, Manel Esteller is optimistic, stressing that “we have improved a great deal since I embarked on my studies, and today we are curing up to 60% of cases. It is true that we still have a long way to go in the cases of lung, pancreas and brain cancer, but we are already succeeding in transforming breast and colon cancer into chronic illnesses”.
A graduate in Medicine from the University of Barcelona, Manel Esteller (1968), who conducted his post-doctoral studies in Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore in the USA, is participating in the upcoming edition of PharmaProcess Forum, giving the inaugural conference on how epigenetics can help to combat this illness, both now and in the future.
Wellness is in fashion. Demand is growing and in contrast to the spas of the early 20th century that used to treat muscular, skin or bone diseases, the customer of today is seeking a state of balance and harmony. To satisfy this new demand, these centres offer a whole range of holistic solutions that treat the entire body and mind through every sense. These treatments might include soundproofed cubicles playing ‘atonal’ melodies that follow the numerical sequence of Fibonacci, an acclaimed mathematician who lived in Pisa more than 800 years ago. When the same laws that determine the distribution of leaves on the stem of a plant or the spiral of a sea snail are applied to musical notes, it generates sounds that arouse a state of calm and relaxation.
And while sound reaches the individual through the sense of hearing, aromatherapy and chromotherapy do so by stimulating the senses of smell and sight. The basis for aromatherapy lies in the conviction that certain fragrances are therapeutic by nature: citrus aromas reduce anxiety (essence of mandarin is particularly recommended for children); mint and rosemary help to restore energy and concentration, while lavender alleviates fears and brings a sense of serenity.
Meanwhile, chromotheraphy, far from being an innovation, is a rediscovery of an ancient Egyptian treatment that used to assign a certain property to every colour: black was the symbol of fertility, yellow of divinity and red of vital energy. Today, chromotherapy is used in wellness centres which apply orange light to inspire joy, green to promote thought and blue to induce calm.
In short, it all points to the fact that society is changing, along with the way people look after themselves.
The most innovative wellness centres are the new temples of this holistic concept of wellbeing, as reflected by the trade show Piscina & Wellness Barcelona 2015, which has constructed a replica of a real spa and organized an event devoted to wellness where Jeremy McCarthy, the Global Director of Spa for the Mandarin Oriental hotel group, is the guest of honour. As McCarthy says, “Wellness can no longer be summed up as simply ‘diet and exercise’ but encompasses new aspects such as the need to rest and recover and find an emotional balance.”