Conference halls re-purposed for crisis from Cannes to Birmingham

The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès de Cannes, the world famous conference venue and economic motor of the Côte d'Azur resort, would normally be well into its spring season at this time of year.

March usually brings over 25,000 delegates for international property show Mipim, while MipTV, its junket for the global TV and entertainment industry, was exepcted to attract around 10,000 visitors at the end of this month.

Instead, the state-owned venue, which is managed by the Society of Mixed Economy for the Events of the City of Cannes (Semec), is currently housing the city's homeless in a radical new plan to create safe spaces for the dispossessed.

Around 100 people have been given sanitised quarters, food and medical attention in the lower-ground floor space of the Palais, dubbed 'the bunker' by delegates to its year-round events.

A series of 2020 conferences had already been cancelled - including MipTV - while events including Mipim, the Cannes Film Festival and Cannes Lions Festival have been postponed to the autumn, in the hope that the crisis is resolved in the meantime.

Mipim's organisers, Reed Midem, announced last week that Mipim will become a two-day networking event slated for September in Paris, under the name Mipim Connect. Delegates who have already signed up for the Cannes dates, which had already been shifted from March to June, can use their passes in Paris or request a refund.

Hospital provision
Meanwhile Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in the UK is preparing to host medical teams as its conference programme is set aside. The asset is owned by private equity giant Blackstone.

The head of the UK's national health service (NHS), Sir Simon Stevens, confirmed last week that the NEC is to become a dedicated coronavirus hospital. Like other field hospitals planned for the Excel convention centre in London and the Manchester Central Complex, it will be considered a branch of the NHS Nightingale hospital in London.

Lionel Assant, Blackstone head of European private equity, said: 'Like the rest of the country we want to help in any way we can during this crisis, including putting the entire NEC facility at the disposal of the NHS for as long as it needs it.'

Elsewhere, a new intensive care unit opened this week at Fiera Milano, Italy's extensive exhibition halls north of Milan in the district of Rho.

While the facility currently includes eight wards with 53 intensive care beds, around 220 speciality beds in total will be set up in the structure in the next few weeks. The Italian health ministry has speculated that this hospital could become a permanent fixture in the future, representing the largest intensive care facility in Italy, and one of the biggest in Europe. 


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