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Meet Björn Rydevik, meeting ambassador

Björn Rydevik. Photo: Johan Wingborg/Gothenburg university

As a meeting ambassador, Björn Rydevik has helped to attract many international medical conferences to Gothenburg. Björn is a professor at the Department of Orthopaedics at the Institute of Clinical Sciences, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg. He was involved in bringing about Gothenburg’s hosting in 2021 of Eurospine, an international conference on spine diseases and injuries with approximately 3,700 participants.

Already 20 years ago, Björn recognised Gothenburg’s strong potential for hosting international conferences in orthopaedics. As a frequent participant in conferences worldwide, he felt Gothenburg had a lot to offer.

“It struck me that Gothenburg has outstanding conference facilities and numerous hotels, all within walking distance. Several of my colleagues at Gothenburg University and Sahlgrenska University Hospital shared this view. We began working on attracting Eurospine to Gothenburg, and we succeeded. Eurospine was held in Gothenburg in 2001, and the conference is now set to return in 2021,” says Björn.

In addition to Eurospine 2001 and 2021, he has been instrumental in bringing other international conferences to Gothenburg. In 2010 the city hosted a large international orthopaedic conference with over 3,000 participants organised by SICOT (International Society of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology), SOF (Swedish Orthopaedic Association) and SIROT (International Research Society of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology). Then in 2011, Gothenburg hosted the Annual Meeting of the ISSLS (International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine) with roughly 500 participants, focusing on research in the causes of back pain and disorders.

Attracting conferences
It takes a lot of time and work to attract a conference to Gothenburg. Björn and his colleagues have been collaborating closely with Gothenburg Convention Bureau.

“The process of attracting a conference to a city involves many people and can take several years. What my colleagues and I do is to make contacts and market Gothenburg as a location. A key criterion is for at least one of us to be actively involved in the organisation that is organising the conference. But we couldn’t have succeeded without Göteborg & Co and the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre. We need each other. This is an excellent example of good collaboration,” says Björn.

Part of the process is for Björn, either alone or with a colleague, to give a presentation highlighting what Gothenburg has to offer, in order to convince the organisation to choose Gothenburg above other cities. Björn explains that good preparation is crucial and that the challenge lies in persuading the organiser that Gothenburg is the best choice.

“I remember selling Gothenburg as the host for Eurospine in 2001. The choice was between Gothenburg and Rome, and I was the first to make a presentation. The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra had recently been appointed as the Swedish national orchestra, and I mentioned this to highlight Gothenburg as a city of culture. When Rome’s representative got up to speak, he pointed out that you can find every type of culture in Rome. He was right, of course. But we still won,” smiles Björn.

How does it feel when you find out that Gothenburg has been selected?

“It’s very satisfying. And it’s fun to tell the news to my colleagues and everyone at Göteborg & Co who helped us win the hostship. It’s a real team effort!”

The benefits of holding conferences in Gothenburg
The university gains benefits from helping organise medical conferences. In addition to conducting research and teaching, the University of Gothenburg has a duty to collaborate with the surrounding society. A conference is one way of doing this. For Björn and his colleagues, it is stimulating to meet others in the same field from around the world. A conference also gives researchers opportunities for international networking.

But it is not only orthopaedic professionals who benefit from conferences like Eurospine 2021. Gothenburgers also benefit, although Björn feels that even more can be done to capitalise on these events. He hopes this will be happen in 2021.

“For instance, the public could be given more opportunities to participate. At Eurospine 2017 in Dublin, there was one day when open lectures were held for the public. I hope this initiative will be repeated in Gothenburg in 2021. There is also potential for inviting other researchers and companies that develop orthopaedic products and materials, Such as biotech companies and researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, says Björn.

Strong position as a meetings destination
About 20 years ago, Björn realised that Gothenburg had as much potential for hosting conferences and meetings as any other city in the world. And he still sees Gothenburg as a highly competitive destination.

“Gothenburg has a strong position. Among other things, it has a large conference facility in the city centre and thousands of hotel rooms within walking distance, all close to the airport. However, there are also disadvantages. Gothenburg is not centrally located in Europe and lacks intercontinental flight connections. And of course the weather is not as pleasant as, say, in San Diego, which also has an excellent, centrally located conference centre. This can also be seen as a disadvantage. But if we can get the organisers to visit Gothenburg, they usually see the benefits.”

Eurospine 2017 in Dublin counted about 3,700 participants from 78 countries including UK, USA, Spain and Mexico. Because Eurospine is growing, it’s very possible that even more visitors will come to Gothenburg in 2021 than to Dublin in 2017.

“What Gothenburg has that many cities lack is a fantastic congress centre – the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre – in the city centre, with enough space to house even large conferences in connecting rooms. Many cities have conference centres on the outskirts of the city, and the event has to be held on multiple floors due to a lack of space, which is not ideal.  The Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre has excellent purpose-built facilities and 1,200 hotel rooms in the same building, which is really fabulous.”