Sydney outshone all expectations for the 105th Rotary International Convention, drawing more international delegates than expected and attracting global attention for the association’s key cause, the worldwide eradication of the Polio disease.
Attracting participants from 148 countries, the Rotary International Convention is one of the largest and most significant annual meetings held globally. Last month (1-4 June), Sydney welcomed 19,653 attendees to Sydney Olympic Park for the annual meeting, 2,653 above the 17,000 projected by Rotary International in the lead up to the event. This figure includes 18,603 delegates, 400 exhibitors, 150 international staff and 500 volunteers. Overall, the convention generated an estimated economic impact of A$62 million.
In the lead up to the convention, Rotary held one of its greatest campaign awareness events and broke a double world record for the largest bridge climb on Sydney Harbour Bridge with 340 participants, waving 278 flags. The turnout eclipsed Oprah Winfrey’s world-record climb in 2011. Money raised from the Rotary climb will be matched by the Bill Gates Foundation and will be used to protect 240,000 children from Polio. On top of this, BridgeClimb Sydney donated 50 per cent of the proceeds from their ticket sales.
The record-breaking climb has been deemed Rotary’s most successful media event ever, receiving widespread international coverage from the NBC in America, BBC in the UK and a morning show in Canada, as well as news agencies in China, Belgium and Ireland. Overall, the convention received some 250 media mentions, and a video clip showing Channel 7’s Sunrise host Edwina Bartholomew interviewing 2014 Convention Chair Mark Maloney immediately prior to his climb, attracted just over 1.1 million views.
Host Organising Committee Chair Barry Thompson said, “The Sydney Convention has opened up for a lot of delegates, particularly local Australians, an understanding of the Rotary world internationally. If you appreciate that, then you understand more of what you are doing in your own club to try and make the world a better place, which is what we are trying to do. This just has to be good for the people who are desperately in need of the help we can provide.”
“I think the emphasis on Polio in the convention was absolutely a wonderful highlight. It is still an important issue to us and we are dedicating a lot of resources to doing it because it will be only the second disease in the world to be eradicated.”
Rotary International President Ron D. Burton said his expectations for the Sydney convention were exceeded, both in the city’s ability to attract larger than expected delegate numbers and the whole-of-city support for the convention.
“My expectations in coming to Sydney have all actually been exceeded, and I say exceeded because we’ve…gotten tremendous support from the New South Wales (NSW) Government and from the leadership of the city of Sydney itself,” he said.
“From day one, we have had nothing but 100 per cent co-operation from Business Events Sydney (BESydney) at every turn of the corner; everything we’ve asked for, every issue that we potentially had has been addressed in a very professional manner.
“So far, everyone has confirmed that they’ve had an absolutely wonderful time here and they have nothing but high marks for the Australian Rotarians and for all of the support. This is a big event for most places and I think [the people of Sydney] have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome and have done a tremendous job,” added Mr Burton.
Speaking on the last day of the convention, 2014 Convention Chair Mark Maloney added, “I’m confident that this has been a successful convention. I don’t need to wait for a survey!”
BESydney CEO Lyn Lewis-Smith reinforced the role of collaboration in Sydney’s ongoing success as one of the world’s favourite places to meet.
“Sydney’s ability to work cooperatively and collaboratively is one of our key selling points and has been proven to deliver remarkable events in this city, time and again.
“This form of genuine teamwork takes many shapes. We don’t provide a one-size-fits-all solution to events in our city. We work collaboratively to provide customised solutions that are tailored to the requirements and objectives of each unique client. This is really the only way to get real results.
“On this occasion, Rotarians around the world were warmly greeted by ‘G’day from Sydney’ welcome banners from the moment they set foot on Sydney soil. The banners were located throughout Sydney Airport and lined the streets through to Darling Harbour and Sydney Olympic Park.
“The NSW Government provided dedicated transport between the city and the convention’s main venue, Sydney Olympic Park. And, Destination NSW featured messages from Rotary International’s ‘End Polio Now’ campaign in one of its light installations as part of Vivid Sydney – the first time a business event has been afforded such an opportunity.
“We now have over 19,000 Rotarian ambassadors telling the world how Sydney shines. I can’t think of any better outcome!”
The convention’s other highlights included:
- NSW Premier Mike Baird and Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s attendance at the welcome ceremony. Mr Abbott pledged, on behalf of the Australian Government, over A$100 million to support Rotary International’s ‘End Polio Now’ awareness campaign
- Rotary’s donation of over 120 cartons of books to 59 local and Indigenous schools through its Labyrinth for Literacy campaign. Rotarians from around the world contributed to this program aimed at giving back to the local host community