Political situation has little impact on displays by 200 companies at Vienna ECR meeting

March 15, 2000

The political controversy swirling through Austria had little effect on technical exhibitors at this year’s European Congress of Radiology meeting. None of the preregistered vendors opted to cancel their booths and only a small number of scientific

The political controversy swirling through Austria had little effect on technical exhibitors at this year’s European Congress of Radiology meeting. None of the preregistered vendors opted to cancel their booths and only a small number of scientific program presenters refused to attend—although virtually everyone condemned the rise of the right-wing, anti-foreigner Freedom Party.

“The ECR is a nonpolitical science organization,” said ECR 2000 president Dr. Rolf Gùnther in his opening address. “We are committed to liberty and democracy and abhor discrimination of any kind.”

Gùnther announced that the ECR will be held outside Vienna in 2002 and 2003, but stressed that the current political situation was not behind the decision to change venues. He said the cities being considered are Barcelona and Brussels, although convention facilities in both are heavily booked. If space is available, Brussels may have the edge as the city is the headquarters of the European Union, and Gùnther suggested the ECR needs to build a stronger relationship with the EU.

Approximately 200 companies exhibited at the meeting, a slight increase over last year. According to ECR officials, exhibit space remained stable at about 7000 square meters.

“We did not consider canceling,” said Shalom Hazan, systems specialist for Smart Light of Yokineam, Israel.

He said that although the Austrian political climate was a common topic of discussion among ECR vendors, it did not have a marked impact on business conducted at the meeting.

“When we go out in Vienna for sightseeing or social reasons, you can feel it,” he said. “Everyone (the Viennese) seems very embarrassed, but we have not felt any hostility.”

A few companies did scale back the size of their exhibits, but the reasons were economic, not political. Siemens, GE, Marconi, Philips, and Toshiba did not exhibit their actual MR and CT equipment, relying instead on small models, panel displays, and equipment consoles.

Hitachi showed its open MR system and Shimadzu displayed its SCT-7800T subsecond CT scanner, however. According to Gerd Heuken, sales manager for Hitachi Medical Systems Europe, the company was not asked to keep its MR equipment off the floor.

“Now that the ECR has become an annual meeting, it is simply too expensive to bring all that equipment every year,” said Richard Hausmann, Siemens’ vice president of CT marketing and sales. “Anyway, everyone knows what a CT machine looks like. The equipment is more software driven, so it’s important to be able to have that information available.”

The smaller exhibits allowed the ECR to give space to several companies that had been on the waiting list in 1999.

Despite the absence of actual machines, many companies use the ECR as a forum to launch new CT and MR scanners. Philips completed its Gyroscan lineup with introduction of the Panorama 0.23-tesla open system; Siemens unveiled its Somatom Esprit CT scanner, while GE held a press conference to launch its new CT/e scanner that will be sold on the company’s Web site. A scanner has already been sold over the Web to a facility in Turkey, GE officials said.

Some fallout from the political storm was apparent in scientific presentations. Several presenters from France canceled their lectures and others used the podium as a platform to express their displeasure with the Freedom Party.

Dr. Robert Sigal, chief of radiology at Institut Gustave-Roussy in Villejuif, France, opened his presentation on cancers of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses with photos of his great-great-uncle, who was forced out of his Vienna home by the Nazis and later died in a concentration camp.