I arrived to Almedalsveckan in Visby early in the afternoon on Monday, after having a sleepless night and waking up every hour-panicking (very typical of me) not to miss the earliest train which takes me to the central station.
Four Decades and still kicking
Just in case you’ve not heard what is all this fuss about this Political/PR/Lobbyists’ event which is unique to Sweden; it was humbly launched by the late Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme from the back of a lorry in 1968 South of Sweden at place locally known as Gotland which is believed to be 10 thousand years old. The political parties each have a day in the week (from Sunday to Sunday) according to a rolling timetable. The parties’ days often begin with presentations in early morning TV broadcasts and breakfast meetings.
1 818 events were arranged in 2012 with nearly 17 000 participants who want to disseminate information, debate issues important to their organizations, make contacts, create networks and be on the media limelight. Some critics say Almedalensvecka’s original intention is being hijacked by business corporate, Public Relations agencies and other lobbyists; but do the locals say about this very Swedish event?
80 Million Swedish Kroner/week?
That’s the amount, which Almedalsveckan brings to Visby according Daniel Eriksson, representative of the local Tourist Office. Eriksson said this political event put Visby on the map other than generating huge economic income but he also mentioned that it puts a lot of pressure on his office and tourists who have nothing to do with the event but coming here to spend a couple of days on the Island.
Another employee of a recreation center who wants to be anonymous told me that even though Almedalen is good for the town; it has lost its meaning to corporate interests which has nothing to do with political debate. Emil Persson, one of the locals whom I met while disseminating information about his organization disagrees with my previous interviewee. Persson says Almedalen is a two-way avenue that helps various groups with different interests to speak, to be seen and to be heard. A young souvenir shopkeeper says business gets tens times bigger during this one-week long event. Well, this is what I have for Monday and I will get you posted until Saturday about issues ranging from local politics to Swedishness etc.
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