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Barcelona bursts the MWC bubble

Por: | 02 de marzo de 2012


As I was cycling to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last Wednesday, I started to contemplate how the annual mobile phone get together is so incredibly detached from the city that hosts it.

It was at this point that I ran into what looked like a pitched battle between police and student protestors. Catalan mossos clad in helmets and battle gear swarmed into Carrer Diputacio while a masked protestor set fire to a bin; overhead police helicopters patrolled while the air was a mess of sirens, cries and the foul smell of burning plastic.

I was already late, so I re-doubled my pace, imagining that this would be the last I would see of the disturbances that day.

At MWC, the difference was surreal. While violence erupted in central Barcelona, up at the Fira De Barcelona there were men padding around in robot suits, free ice-cream sandwiches and enough new gadgets to feed a small city.

The disparity made me think again about MWC and its links to Barcelona. It was a subject that had been troubling me ever since I first stepped foot in the Congress last Monday: MWC may be a massively important event for the Barcelona economy but there is little to distinguish it from a conference taking place in Paris, London or Montreal. The Catalan Generalitat has a stall, sure and there are places selling Estrella beer and paella. But you could go for hours without seeing or hearing a word in Spanish, while Catalan is nowhere.

As for your Barcelona inhabitant, how do they benefit from a conference that is far out of their average price range and does little to reach out to those outside the mobile phone industry? (Samsung, on this point, should be congratulated for setting up a stall in the Placa de Catalunya that was open to all.)

MWC and Barcelona, I concluded, would most likely continue to exist in parallel worlds, where inhabitants might glimpse each other or even pass by, but would remain eternally separated by market forces.


On Wednesday afternoon, however, Barcelona came to MWC in force: protestors gathered outside the Congress, causing police to close down the Espanya metro station and surrounding streets. MWC attendees were forced to leave by a different exit and the line for taxis stretched 100 metres down the road.

If the protestors wanted to make attendees pay attention, they succeeded. The move created a nervousness among conference goers that was partly down to fear of missing their flights and partly due to the massed ranks of riot police just outside the Fira.

Of course, MWC attendees had nothing to fear from the students. But conference goers are bombarded with warnings about pickpockets and thieves in Barcelona who target attendees and their gadget-laden bags. These may well be justified but they contribute to a certain wariness among the MWC crowd about the Catalan capital.

Mobile World Congress was clearly not the main object of the protestors’ ire last Wednesday. Instead, it appears to have got caught in the crossfire – a convenient capitalist target for protestors to make noise. There was some anti-MWC graffiti in the Placa de Catalunya but it looked lost among a world of painted grievances, insults and demands.


Nevertheless, you have to wonder how Barcelona residents must feel about this event, which invades their city every year and doesn’t appear to give a lot back (hoteliers, taxi drivers and restaurant owners excepted). Do they pay any attention? Do they even care?

Clearly, MWC organisers have no obligation to reach out to Barcelona residents: the event is important for the city’s prestige and there would be little to stop it upping sticks to, say, Madrid if organisers felt the need.

All the same, the current situation, where attendees remain ensconced in their MWC bubble, while Barcelona residents are largely ignored is healthy for no one.

Catalonia and Spain have bigger problems to deal with, of course, and last Wednesday was a reminder of that.

But does anyone really want international attendees to leave Mobile World Congress thinking of Barcelona not as a place of art, culture and history but as the city where they got their wallet stolen and a demonstration made them miss their flight?

Photographs Copyright All rights reserved by Teresa Forn.

Hay 8 Comentarios powerpoint presentations are best among all exisitng, please visit and get more information regarding this kind of writing.

to Nancy Daum - 03/03/2012 8:48:38 - I don;t know why do you think that "Catalonia makes just over 25% of Spain's entire GDP, tourism being a major part of that'.

That number is clearly exaggerated. It would be interesting to know if is just a mistake, an idea pushed to your mind (by who?), or you just read the wrong statistics of ultraradical naZionalists.

Catalonia is clearly a main Motor in the spanish and the European economy, both in the industrial sector, and exports.
Still is NOT true that it counts for 'over 25% of Spain's entire GDP'.

The population of Catalonia is 15,98% of the spanish population; and Catalonia makes 18,6% of Spain's entire GDP.

Tourism is a big part of the catalan economy; still there are other sectors as important, or more important in the catalan or the spanish economies.

Although you clear, and make some good points in your comment, it gives a false and exaggerated impression of the size of the catalan economy and GDP, related to the total spanish ones.


Barcelona hosts thousands of conferences annually - the MWC - being the biggest. In any city that has a high rate of tourism (nearly 8 million visitors in 2011 to BCN) there are several universes happening simultaneously on a daily basis. With such a high rate of visitors many BCN inhabitants make their living through the long food chain of tourism - from waiters/waitress, marketing vendors selling food to restaurants, bus/van/car drivers working for the various organizations hosting events, hotel staff (from cleaners to hotel owners), police (extra hours, not only to cover the student riots, but also many undercover police to cut down on pickpocketing), and the list could go on to include the actual workers who set up and take down the stands at the conference to the upmarket events held through out the city - many in public buildings - directly benefiting the local government in a time of high need. The long and short of it is that tourism makes a BIG economic contribution to Barcelona and Catalonia all year, every year.

Considering Catalonia makes just over 25% of Spain's entire GDP, tourism being a major part of that, I think you should reconsider your words and, perhaps, spend a bit more time in the great city.

CATALONIA IS obviously SPAIN, It has always been, and probably it will always be, despite the naZionalists that think that they are descendents of 'Charlemagne' (and I mean what I say), and therefore, something special and superior...
They are not! They are just a bunch of naZionalists...

VALL d'ARAN maybe IS NOT CATALONIA, but for good or bad... down the Pyrenees all is SPAIN.
As 'Camoens' (Luís de Camões) said: Castillians and Portuguese; because Spaniards all we are... So it is for every single region in the peninsula, whether the have some particularities, speak also another language, besides Spanish, and 'want/some people not want/belong/not belong' to the same political state.
Only some bunches of morons think they are 'Nibelungs' just because they were invaded and occupied for a short period of time, by the 'Charlemagne' barbarians, centuries ago.
The tights that fasten Spain, the cultural similarities despite the differences, the common love, culture, and history shared during many centuries, are much more powerful that some dangerous and despicable pseudo-Nazi reminiscences.

Despite the radical ultra-conservative separatists, most of the Catalan people long for Spain as a Nation; even if they also love their own region, their own language and culture and, maybe desire yet higher grounds of self-government...

Despite some 'big mouth' ultra-conservative voices, that say they will not drink 'Cava' anymore... most of the Spaniards, still drink, and will drink, Cava, and still love Catalonia.
Mare de Déu..: The article is a mixture of some good points and the Archie-known "self-indulgent-arrogant-'superior'-pseudo-racist" anglo-saxon crap.

Forget it, 'Love'; the only thing you are superior nowadays is singing 'here we gooo, here we gooooo,,,' and losing football matches; wearing white dresses with huge lows to go to the Pub to get drunk; playing rugby... and in having 'nuclear missiles' (but this is what matter most.. isn't it?).

En primer lugar, gracias por el espacio. Muerte, represión y saqueo. Sin estas tres palabras, el concepto de mega minería no podría existir. Van de la mano al igual que van de la mano el gobierno nacional y las mineras extranjeras, encargadas de llevarse los minerales y las divisas, dejando contaminación, destrucción y migajas. El conflicto generado en torno a la minería metalífera a gran escala desenmascara las políticas reales del kirchnerismo y la burguesía nacional, que solo buscan poner en bandeja los recursos naturales y estirar lo máximo posible el discurso de un progresismo emancipador, que no resiste ningún contraste con la realidad. Gracias a los levantamientos populares, los cuestionamientos hacia esta actividad extractiva y destructora han echado raíces en amplios sectores de la sociedad. Hoy, los pueblos de Famatina, Belén, Andalgala, Tinogasta, Chilecito, entre otros, son los faros a seguir en una lucha por la emancipación. Pese a que muchos intenten enfriar el conflicto con vientos malvinenses, el repudio a la minería a cielo abierto truena más fuerte que las explosiones que mutilan la Cordillera de los Andes. LEER INVESTIGACION COMPLETA:

this article is crap! only shows that you couldn't understand anything about the city and his inhabitants. I suposse that you will think that there are demonstations and riots every day and in every corner of the city.
I suggest that you should meet more people before talk about those parallel worlds... Barcelona is not Athens.
I guess that in your opinion Madrid is much better than BCN to organize a congress or anything with a little of relevance... I'm not surprised, is from your paycheck comes from!

Obviously. Catalonia is a part of Spain, to be exact.


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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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