Almedalen 2015 with Swedavia

Backstage at the hottest Almedalen hangout

Backstage at the hottest Almedalen hangout
A view inside Gate Almedalen from 2014. Photo: Swedavia
As the Baltic island of Gotland welcomes swarms of Swedish powerbrokers, The Local takes a sneak peek at Gate Almedalen, a massive airport-inspired tent where everyone who’s anyone can be found.

Measuring a whopping 300 square-meteres and located at the doorstep of the Visby Clarion Hotel – the preferred quarters for ministers and other VIPs — Gate Almedalen is indeed hard to miss.

“It’s one of Almedalen’s biggest meeting points, both in size and numbers,” explains Henrik Kelfve, the Almedalen point person for Sweden’s state-owned airport operator Swedavia.

Trucks full of supplies departed from Stockholm for Visby on the Thursday prior to Almedalen, and building crews kept busy all weekend to ensure Gate Almedalen was ready for takeoff by Monday.

Kelfve compares Gate Almedalen to an airport “but without the landing strip” or security screening.

“There’s a lounge where people can sit down, grab a coffee, and have informal meetings, which is what Almedalen is all about,” he explains.

SEE ALSO: All The Local's coverage from Almedalen 2015

In addition to the lounge area, the Gate Almedalen tent features a seminar area and stage with seating for 100 people for each of the 18 panel discussions to be held over the course of the week.

Visitors can also follow the on-stage action from the comfort of the lounge via video monitors, and speakers outside the tent will make it possible for people to listen in and still soak up some always welcome sunshine.

In between the seminars and impromptu meetings, visitors to Gate Almedalen can try their luck playing Ms. Pac Man at the “Charity Arcade”, an authentic 1980s-style arcade game machine that accepts coins from around the world.

Charity Arcade games on display in Arlanda airport. Photo: Åkestam Holst

Launched in March in Gothenburg’s Landvetter airport and Stockholm’s Arlanda, the Charity Arcade lets people empty their pockets of spare change, play classic video games, and raise money for the Red Cross.

“We’re hoping to challenge the visitors from different political parties to see who can rack up the most points,” says Kelfve. “We also want to offer visitors something fun in addition to the discussions about the future of flight.

The tent will also feature a display about aviation biofuels, allowing visitors to learn more about what many industry experts believe is the key to minimizing air travel’s environmental impact amid the need for increasing connectivity.

SEE ALSO: The Local's Connect Sweden ambassador series

While Kelfve hopes that anyone who ‘checks in’ at Gate Almedalen leaves with new connections and knowing more about the importance of air connectivity and aviation biofuels, he doesn’t hesitate when asked what he expects to be the highlight of the week.

“Our mingle on Tuesday evening,” he says.

“We’re partnering with the US embassy, the American Chamber of Commerce, and SAS for what will surely be one of the hottest meetups at Almedalen.”

He adds however that, due to space and security constraints, the event is fully subscribed.

While Swedavia and its many partners have been holding seminars at Almedalen for years, Gate Almedalen first appeared in 2013 and has quickly become one of the most popular destinations at Sweden’s great policy meet-up.

“We connect with society at so many levels—from ordinary citizens up to policymakers in the Riksdag—so it’s important for us to have a dialogue with all these people, and Gate Almedalen makes that possible,” says Kelfve.

A 15-year veteran of Almedalen himeslf, Kelfve says the best part of the week are the inspiring and unexpected meetings that take place by simply walking around the streets of Visby.

“The foundation of Almedalen is all the spontaneous meetings you have with new people from all walks of life. You listen, you learn – and you forge connections with people you had no idea you’d meet. It’s really cool.”

This article was produced by The Local in partnership with Swedavia