One of the world’s largest annual meetings exceeded expectations when it came to Sydney back in June.

Sydney blitzed all expectations for the 105th Rotary International Convention, drawing 2000 more international delegates than anticipated and attracting global attention for the association’s key cause, the worldwide eradication of Polio.

Attracting participants from 148 countries, the Rotary International Convention is one of the largest and most significant annual meetings held globally.

In June, Sydney welcomed 19,653 attendees to Sydney Olympic Park for the annual meeting – including 18,603 delegates, 400 exhibitors, 150 international staff and 500 volunteers. Overall, the four-day program generated an estimated economic impact of $62 million.

In the lead up to the convention, Rotary held one of its greatest campaign awareness events and broke a double world record for the largest bridge climb on Sydney Harbour Bridge with 340 participants waving 278 flags. The turnout eclipsed Oprah Winfrey’s world-record climb in 2011.

Money raised from the Rotary climb will be matched by the Bill Gates Foundation and will be used to protect 240,000 children from Polio. On top of this, BridgeClimb Sydney donated 50 per cent of the proceeds from their ticket sales.

The record-breaking climb was deemed Rotary’s most successful media event ever, receiving widespread international coverage from the NBC in America, BBC in the UK and a morning show in Canada, as well as news agencies in China, Belgium and Ireland.

With around 75 per cent of participants personally paying to attend Rotary, combining the convention with an appealing destination continues to see the international meeting retain high numbers.

Sydney Convention Committee chair, Mark Daniel Maloney, attributes the strong delegate numbers in part to Sydney and Australia’s global appeal.

“Sydney, I perceive, is on the bucket list of many people. Once in their life they want to travel to Sydney and Australia. To be able to travel to Australia and attend the Rotary International Convention – putting the two together – made it happen now rather than five years or further into the future.”

And it appears as if the city delivered on all fronts, with Mr Maloney citing the friendliness of Rotary volunteers and Sydneysiders generally, the expansive Sydney Olympic Park precinct where the majority of meetings and events took place, and the generosity of Government, both State and Federal, helped push this year’s convention to new heights.

He and the organising committee also had positive feedback on the host venues and transport arrangements which had to be amended two years out from the convention when the NSW Government announced it would be closing the existing convention and exhibition centre at Darling Harbour in 2013.

BESydney initially won the right to host the 2014 Rotary convention in 2006, then re-submitted a bid in 2012 with the Sydney Olympic Park precinct as the main convention hub, and worked with the NSW Government to provide dedicated train services. In the end, both proved to be key highlights of the convention for delegates.

“At the time we were concerned about the distance of Sydney Olympic Park from the major hotels in the CBD. But the support of the Government in providing the dedicated rail service certainly eliminated any concerns we had in that regard,” Mr Maloney said.

BESydney CEO Lyn Lewis-Smith said the `whole of city’ approach was a clear catalyst for the event’s success.

“Rotarians around the world were warmly greeted by ‘G’day from Sydney’ welcome banners from the moment they set foot on Sydney soil. The banners were located throughout Sydney Airport and lined the streets through to Darling Harbour and Sydney Olympic Park.

“The NSW Government provided dedicated transport and Destination NSW featured messages from Rotary International’s ‘End Polio Now’ campaign in one of its light installations as part of Vivid Sydney – the first time a business event has been afforded such an opportunity.”

Additional highlights included Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s attendance at the welcome ceremony, where, on behalf of the Australian Government, he pledged more than $100 million over the next five years to support the ‘End Polio Now’ awareness campaign; and Rotary’s donation of more than 120 cartons of books to 59 local schools through its ‘Labyrinth for Literacy’ campaign. Rotarians from around the world contributed to this progam aimed at giving back to the local host community.

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