Spanish tech show assessing cost of cancellation over virus


BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – Organizers of the world’s biggest mobile technology fair say the cost of cancelling the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) is not yet known and that the motivation behind the decision was purely related to health and safety concerns over the virus outbreak from China.

Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA organizing body said Thursday they could not discuss the costs, as it was “early days yet.”

“It’s not about money,” Granryd told reporters in Barcelona.

The decision to scrap the Feb. 24-27 event in Barcelona was taken Wednesday after dozens of tech companies and wireless carriers dropped out over what has recently been dubbed COVID-19, including major companies like Ericsson, Nokia, Sony, Amazon, Intel and LG. The companies cited concerns for the safety of staff and visitors.

John Hoffman, chief executive of GSMA, said they had considered a scaled-down event but “all of our buyers have indicated they would not attend.” He said they looked at the data Wednesday and concluded that the “vast majority of those who planned to attend were not going to be there.”

He said postponing it was discarded as it was “impossible to predict when this situation is going to conclude.”

Describing it as “a very dark day,” Hoffman said that the group nevertheless looked forward to hosting the event again in Barcelona in 2021.

Workers at the Mobile World Congress sit outside the venue in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Organizers of the world’s biggest mobile technology fair are pulling the plug over worries about the viral outbreak from China. The annual Mobile World Congress will no longer be held as planned in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 24-27. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)