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 Home > Event-related > European SF > FSE-ESF 2006 > Babels-el Reports on Athens ESF 2006

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Report on Accomodation at the ESF 2006

(Date: 12 April 2007)



The total number of Babelit@s who took part in the 4th European Social Forum was 505 to 510 people. About 390 of them needed hospitality. 335-340 were put up in private homes, 45-50 in hotels and another 4-5 were in a “mixed situation”, staying a couple of days in hotels and then to private houses.

The beds were provided by the following networks and organizations: 5 from ALIS, 9 from BABELS-EL, 12 from the Network of Political and Social Rights, 8 from Greenpeace, 10 from KOE, 6 from Red (Kokkino), 8-10 from personal contacts and the rest from SYNASPISMOS (SYN). If we had mobilized ourselves on time, we would have been able to put up all 390 interpreters in private houses (and only a few would have been sent to hotels for the first night due to late night arrivals).

The accomodation campaign started at the beginning of March. On March 19th we had about 30-35 beds offered for hospitality, on April 9th we reached 90–95, on April 15th we had about 250. Then for about a week or so, it looked like we would need 130–150 hotel bookings since the private home accommodation was not enough. However, the number of beds increased greatly during the week before the Forum.

Two days before the Forum and the first two days of the Forum itself we had an additional 30–40 private home accommodation offers which we were not able to put to good use because we had already paid deposits for hotel bookings.
The reasons for these late offers are mainly two:

· To begin with, this event reflects the overall situation and the mentality of the people, which inevitably influences the movement (and the Left). It is the result of political apathy, of middle class idleness, of the breakup of social cohesion and of the “age old traditions”- i.e. since Greece was described as “mother of the poor”, in other words traditions of solidarity, generosity and hospitality.
In a city of about 4-4,5 million people, with a few thousands organized in movements and left wing organizations, with several thousands stating that they are “antiglobalists” or even left inclined, the fact that we faced difficulties in finding 400 beds in private homes is a sign of the real dimensions of the defeat the movement has suffered (including the Left) on the level of everyday culture and life principles.
(At the same time, however, this same city, managed to mobilize tens of thousands of people to the march as well as to the ESF venue in Elliniko. In any case, these phenomena are multifaceted but they should not blind us to the problem mentioned before).

· According to Greek tradition, both the organizations and the individuals who offered hospitality did so at the last minute without taking into consideration that:
People who arrive from abroad and especially late at night to take part in an event which, due to its movemental, experimental character, learns as it goes, an event that learns as it moves, need a minimum of basic information about the place s/he is going to spend the night. However, there was an innate lack of organization and the participants were under stress. Many people were arriving at 3 or 5 a.m. and had work to do the same morning.

· Every guest needs to have some basic information about his accommodation 4–5 days in advance. The same applies of course to the person who offers hospitality. If bed offers arrived well in advance, the two sides would have made contact in time and thus facilitate the duty of the“hospitality group” to distribute the people on time and have the time to solve any unexpected problems that inevitably occur.

“Another possible world” must contain a higher degree of organization, consistency, foresight, and rationality. In addition to the obvious advantages, these elements of functioning would contribute to saving time and energy, in other words they would be “ecological” in the broader sense of the word, and less soul-consuming.


Broadly speaking, hospitality was successful. We had no grave complaints and/or problems, except for the hotel KOUROS. (The difficulties that occurred there were overcome by the superhuman efforts of Philippos and fortunately we avoided greater problems.) We managed to face efficiently all problems that occurred.
We would like to underline the fact that all interpreters –with one exception– demonstrated a high degree of understanding and adaptability, thus reducing the pressure.

On the other hand, while the general planning and its practical implementation and distribution of people had started on time, there were some inherent weaknesses.

The person in charge (D. Economidis) of the general coordination should have dealt almost totally with this task and not get so much involved with the distribution of beds. “Operational” planning requires constant knowledge of what is happening at all levels at all times. This caused some delay and therefore more stress and pressure at the final stage.
We could have avoided some of the troubles and saved some money had there been more timely coordination and briefing.

On the other hand, we think that the errors and weaknesses we faced were neither extreme nor insurmountable.


Given the number of guests expected we should have had 2 people as overall coordinators and supervisors and another 8 for the distribution. (The Babels-EL accomodation group was made up of: Tanya Kyriakou, Alexandros Bistis, Dimitris Economidis, Panayotis Pantos, Philippos Prodromos, Marie-Laure Veilhan).

Constant updating of the accomodation list is required (it was impossible to do so during the last 4-5 days) so that it is possible to have the whole picture at any moment and the final review is made easier.
The rest depends on more general factors:

· Start to collect hospitality offers and count beds at least 3 months in advance – without waiting for the selection of interpreters

· Contacts with hotels early on – there was no problem finally but both the Organising Committee and ourselves had to do a lot of extra running in the last few days.

For the Babels-EL hospitality group

Alexandros Bistis

Dimitris Economidis

Panayotis Pantos

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