August 29th, 2010

ESC First Impressions: Size Matters

I’ll admit I was a bit guarded about my first ESC conference, largely due to what seemed to be looming logistical issues. Despite all of Stockholm’s reported charm, it was hard to imagine how a city of this size was going to manage the invasion of over 20,000 — and possibly up to 30,000 — attendees.  Several months in advance of the conference, it was already nearly impossible to find a hotel room. This was the case even for presenters and speakers, some of whom threatened to cancel their participation if the ESC couldn’t help to secure them lodging. Arrangements were made for a cruise ship to dock nearby and make its cabins available, attendees were encouraged to consider hotels in neighboring cities up to 40 miles away, and the ESC posted several online announcements to reassure attendees that everything was going to be all right. So, along with others, I braced myself.

But now that I’m here, I’m beginning to think that the event planners were smart to pick Stockholm after all. The large swarm of cardiologists from all over the world into this relatively small city is making what is already a big meeting feel bigger.  And Stockholm’s good food and coffee, as well as its charming sights, appear to be keeping the crowds quite contented. Although the convention center main hallway is jam packed with people during the rush between sessions, and you’re lucky to even get into a session due to limited seating capacity, people seem happy so far. Even while guarding precious personal space on the commuter train that shuttles attendees from the convention center back to the city, both the locals and the visitors are upbeat. And you know you’re among the visitors when you’re standing on a crowded subway platform, trying to exit through a narrow passageway, and the person next to you mumbles, “It’s a tight stenosis.”

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