What are the proposed dates for which you are bidding?
Thursday 6 August – Monday 10 August 2015 in Helsinki, Finland.
What is your proposed convention host city?
We’re bidding to host the 73rd Worldcon in Helsinki, Finland, at the Helsinki Exhibition and Convention Centre.
Who is on your committee? Who is your bid chair? What experience do they have in general? In running this convention in particular?
The bid chair is Eemeli Aro, and the bid committee currently includes Andrew Adams, Saija Aro, John Coxon, Jukka Halme, Lisa Hertel, Crystal Huff, Johan Jönsson, Rick Kovalcik, Kristoffer Lawson, Michael Lee, Karo Leikomaa, Kimmo Lehtonen, Farah Mendlesohn, Mitja Mieskolainen, Jeff Orth, Kevin Roche, Ann Marie Rudolph, Nicholas Shectman, Vesa Sisättö, Kris “Nchanter” Snyder, Heikki Sørum, and Andy Trembley.
That’s a mix of folk from both international and Finnish fandoms, and it’s a wide base of experience to plan the best con possible. We have experience in running Worldcons (at least eleven of us have been on staff at more than one, including four as division heads—unless I’ve missed my count) as well as other SFnal fannish conventions of comparable size, including past chairs of Eastercon, Westercon, Readercon, Arisia, Boskone, and a number of Finncons (the national convention of Finland that in recent years has ranged from 3,000 to 15,000 attending members).
If known, who will be the chair of the convention? What experience do they have?
The con co-chairs will be Jukka Halme, Crystal Huff and Karo Leikomaa. Jukka has so far chaired three Finncons (of up 15,000 attendees); Crystal has been chair of Arisia once, Relaxacon once, and Readercon twice; and Karo has twice been chair of Tampere Kuplii, a 7,000-person comics festival in Finland.
For more fannish credentials, please take a look at their full bios at the Committee page. Eemeli Aro will continue as the convention’s Ambassador-at-Large.
Are you planning to have any membership discounts for certain groups, such as young adults, military, or seniors?
We have not yet finalized our price structure, so we’ve not made any decisions about discounts either. We hope to make a con that’s as affordable as possible for everyone while not compromising its quality.
The Finnish conrunning tradition expects membership to be free, but that’s not something we can sensibly make happen with a Worldcon. What we can do is use our experience to raise as much money as we can from non-member sources. We have already begun this process, as evidenced by the City of Helsinki free public transit grant.
Describe Helsinki, what is it like?
Helsinki is the capital of Finland, and a major European transport hub. Helsinki has currently over 600,000 inhabitants. When combined with the other capital city area cities Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen, the number of inhabitants goes up to over a million.
Helsinki is located on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. The accurate location is 60°10′15″N, 024°56′15″E. Due to it’s location it is possible to access Helsinki via air, train (from Russia) and sea.
In general Helsinki is a nice place with lots of green areas, sea and nice restaurants and cafés. There are lots of things to see and lots of things to experience. During August the city is mostly sunny with long days and green trees.
Is your convention site in a city center location or a suburb? If a suburb, what are the transport options into the city center?
The proposed convention site is located in the Pasila district of Helsinki.
The City of Helsinki will be providing all attending members of the Helsinki Worldcon in 2015 with free public transport during the convention.
Travel to and from the centre of the city is very simple by local train, as the Pasila station is located 0.3 miles (500 mitres) from the convention site and one stop (5 min) from the central train station. There are between 10 and 35 trains each hour in both directions, depending on the time of day or night. Three tram lines also have a stop right in front of the site, and it’s well served by other bus and tram connections.
All buses and metros, as well as most trams and trains, are low-floor and wheelchair-accessible. Mobility scooters are allowed on low-floor trains.
How far is the site from the city center?
The convention site is just over two miles (three kilometres) north of the very centre of the city.
How does one get around in Helsinki? Is the public transport available around the day seven days a week?
The public transport in Helsinki is very efficient and it is one of the best in Europe, if not in the world. The travel card provided by the City of Helsinki to the members of the convention for free includes traveling by train, tram, bus, metro in Helsinki area and ferries going to Suomenlinna fortress. The public transport is available seven days a week. There will be a short pause in the traffic during the night (around 3 AM to 5 AM). During the night, starting around midnight, the traffic is a bit slower.
Currently there are trains going from Pasila station to Helsinki main railway station every one to two minutes during the day. Currently there are trams leaving from the convention centre to the centre of Helsinki every three to four minutes during the day.
Will the public transport be able to handle all the convention members leaving the venue at once?
We are confident that it will. The Helsinki Book Fair is organised annually in the Exhibition and Convention Centre, and there are tens of thousands of people attending the Book Fair during one weekend. During that time, the trams are often quite full of people but can still transport everyone to and from the convention centre without a problem. Additionally, most people working or studying in Helsinki need to commute to work or school daily. With about 500,000 people living in Helsinki alone, the public transit system is the main means of transportation for people commuting to and from work. This system was built to accommodate the workforce as well as large intermittent traffic with ease.
What are some of the main tourist attractions of your city?
Helsinki is fronted by Suomenlinna, one of the largest sea fortresses in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The nearest national park, Nuuksio, is 22 miles from the city centre. Linnanmäki amusement park is located less than two miles (less than three kilometres) from the city centre and can be accessed by tram in 10 minutes from the convention site. The city’s architecture is a unique mix of the East and the West, and it’s the best place in the world for buying Finnish design goods. It’s a modern pocket-sized metropolis, with something for everyone.
However, if you do come, you shouldn’t just visit Helsinki, but also come see the Baltic Sea; take a 2-hour ferry to the medieval city of Tallinn, Estonia, or an overnight cruise to Stockholm or St. Petersburg, and see the Finnish archipelago (we have 179,584 islands). Or visit Lapland in the north (the true home of Santa Claus) and experience the midnight sun.
What type of weather can we expect at the time of year your convention is to be held?
In short, the weather will be delightful!
A Worldcon in Helsinki would be the northernmost Worldcon yet, at 60°N. It would therefore also be the sunniest Worldcon, with approximately 17-hour long days. July and August are the best times to visit Helsinki, with average temperatures ranging from 22°C (72°F) during the day to 13°C (55°F) at night.
Please describe your convention site facilities. For example, the quantity and sizes of rooms, tech options, accessibility issues, etc.
Obviously, the facilities we’ll be using need to reflect the likely size of the con. Predicting at this stage—or even within the next year or so—how big a Helsinki Worldcon might be is a difficult task. Therefore, our agreement with the Helsinki Exhibition and Conference Centre allows us to postpone the decision on what spaces to actually use and pay for until the end of September 2014, a bit after Loncon 3.
We have currently reserved all of the conference rooms, a number of lounge spaces, three saunas, and up to about 100,000 sq. ft. (over 9000 m2) of hall space. The conference rooms can be divided into two categories. 11 rooms are in the range of 100-400 people. 6 rooms are smaller for 36-80 people.
All of the conference rooms are equipped with a digital projector and screen, and all the bigger ones also include a sound system with 3-4 microphones. The cost of setting up this equipment is almost entirely included in the cost of our facility rental (which is common in Finland), and the decorator line item common in American Worldcons is entirely irrelevant here. We are provided those services with our rental fee, included in the contract.
All of the conference centre and hall space is fully wheelchair-accessible, spread over two floors in total, with four elevators connecting the floors. There are several accessible rooms within our main hotel block as well as overflow hotel. They are equipped with roll-in showers, handle bars for access needs, fire alarms that include warning for the Deaf, induction loops for the hard of hearing, and elevators next to every set of stairs. The City of Helsinki recently completed a program called Helsinki for All which implemented modern accessibility within the city in terms of curb cuts, ability to use public transit, etc. The ability to move freely and easily within and without the city’s buildings is a high priority for all.
The building of our site is fully air-conditioned, and the main hotel adjoins the conference centre without anyone having to walk outside, if it is a particularly warm day.
Where will your large events (i.e. Hugo Ceremony and Masquerade) be held?
Given the flexibility of our space options, we are building a set of space configuration options that include sizing for 3,000 attendees, 4,000 attendees, and 5,000 attendees.
For all configuration options, we’re looking to build a 2000-seat theatre (flat) in the convention centre hall space, which will be separated from the rest of the space by hard movable floor-to-ceiling walls. If our membership numbers start to look like this arrangement might not be sufficient for the Masquerade and Hugos, we’ll have the option to build a bigger theatre or use the convention centre’s 4400-person sloped auditorium, located just next to our hall space.
Per our contract, the facility is enabling us to make the event space allocation decisions after Loncon 3 in 2014, which is an unusual flexibility for a Worldcon. This should allow us to adjust our space allocation for more accurate membership numbers than previously has been done. In addition, the facility contract includes the ability to rent any of the spaces for a limited number of days, so if we decided to only utilize the space for the Hugos and Masquerade, we would only pay for those days’ rental. This will help us realize significant savings compared to the usual Worldcon budget.
Is the convention centre accessible by a wheelchair or a scooter?
All of the conference centre and hall space is fully wheelchair-and-scooter-accessible, spread over two floors in total, with four elevators connecting the floors. The convention centre rooms are not sloped and there are no steps to access the rooms.
Will you be providing scooters for those with mobility difficulties?
We are currently negotiating the prices of the scooters as well as availability, but are confident we will be able to meet or exceed the demand that previous Worldcon committees have reported to us. Please notice that the public transport will only carry scooters on trains (not buses or trams), as they are bigger than wheelchairs. However, train is fortunately the easiest option for getting from the convention site. There is a distance of 0.3 miles (500 metres) from the convention centre to the Pasila train station. All the trains stopping in Pasila and heading to Helsinki will take you directly to the centre of the city.
Please describe the policies / laws regarding smoking in your hotel(s), convention center, and city.
In Finland, smoking is prohibited in public spaces, restaurants, pubs, etc. Hotels may allow smoking in a small portion of their rooms; the on-site hotel has six rooms for smokers. The convention centre itself is non-smoking, but does have a separately ventilated smoking room in the conference centre and a designated smoking area outside of the building. The building is specifically designed for the mutual comfort of those who smoke and those who are allergic to smoke, without fear of conflict between the opposing needs. Smoking immediately outside of any entrance of a building is prohibited.
How good is the sound-proofing between function rooms?
All the function rooms are separate rooms with good sound proofing. As the convention centre is designed to have various program items with sound system, the rooms are sound proofed to make this possible. The big events such as Masquerade and Hugos will be organised in a bigger hall without no other program going on around it at the time.
Will there be an Internet connection available to members?
The convention site currently has two wifi HotSpot networks available for guests of the convention centre, free of charge. One is near the main entrance of the exhibition centre and extends also to the cafeteria close to the entrance. In convention rooms, there is additional wifi coverage available. The hotel rooms at the Holiday Inn have also an internet connection included in the price.
Program and Parties
What arrangements will be made for evening socializing and party space? Do you have a corkage waiver?
Our current plan is to organise party space at the conference centre, but we’re looking into a few other options as well. So far we’ve got an agreement for a corkage waiver for non-alcoholic products and food (what some would call a “forkage” waiver) with the convention centre’s catering company. Negotiations are ongoing, though.
What hotel(s) are being used for the convention? How many rooms, what type, accessibility issues, etc.?
For our main hotel, we have booked a Holiday Inn at the con site that shares lobby space with the conference centre. We have a preliminary block reservation for ALL of their 244 rooms. European hotels are smaller than American ones, so we’re negotiating with other hotels as well. There are about 40 hotels within 20 minutes’ travel by public transport, with over 6000 rooms in total.
The hotel function rooms and convention center are located on two floors, with four elevators going between each level, and it is possible to go from the hotel to the convention center directly through a door that joins them, without going outside, in multiple locations.
A major concern that we will keep in mind is the ease of travel between the overflow hotels and the convention site, as many would require travel by local train or by tram (free for our members). We are attempting to balance overflow facility options and have a mix of hotels located within easy walking distance and within easy access of the public transit, to accommodate members with different preferences.
What are your hotel room rates? Does the rate include taxes?
Main hotel: Holiday Inn Helsinki Messukeskus.
All prices include taxes, breakfast, and internet connection in the room. Please notice prices are per room, not per person.
|Single standard room||80 EUR (102 USD) per night||Double standard room||100 EUR (128 USD) per night||Single executive room||100 EUR (128 USD) per night||Double executive room||120 EUR (154 USD) per night||Suite||190 EUR (240 USD) per night|
All hotel prices in Finland include taxes. We are looking to accommodate a range of budgets for stays at other hotels and hostels, as well.
What is a typical breakfast at a Finnish hotel? Can the breakfast be bought from the hotel even if one does not stay at the hotel?
A typical breakfast at a Holiday Inn in Finland will include a wide variety of buffet items. Warm food often includes porridge, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, sausages, meatballs and sometimes bacon. The cold foods include various types of fruits, yoghurt, cereal and muesli, berries, various types of bread, butter and jam and cold cuts such as ham, turkey, salami, various types of cheeses, cucumber, lettuce and tomato. The sweet food include pastries and cookies, often muffins and some times American or Finnish style pancakes. The drinks include coffee (often also decaf), tea, hot chocolate, two or three kinds of juices, and of course water. Some hotels include special coffees such as espresso or cappuccino in their breakfast, too. The selection may vary depending on the hotel and some might have slightly different options but this is a general breakfast and something our main hotel Holiday Inn Helsinki Messukeskus has.
Most of the hotels will sell the breakfast for people not staying in the hotels. The prices vary from 15 to 25 euros. At our main hotel Holiday Inn Helsinki Messukeskus the price for breakfast is currently 18,40 euros per person.
What is the distance from the main hotel(s) to the closest entrance of the convention site?
The closest hotel is the Holiday Inn which shares lobby space with the conference centre. There is literally no distance between the two facilities, as the hotel’s rooms are located directly above the conference centre. A limited amount of accommodations are specifically set aside by our staff, as they are accessible for those who need access accommodations.
Within one mile’s (1.6 km) walking distance are two other hotels, but the hotels right by the main train stations may be even more quickly reached from the convention centre by local train, most of which are low-floor, with access at the same level as the station platforms. The train trip takes 5 minutes from Helsinki main railway station to Pasila station, the first stop after Helsinki. The distance from Pasila station to the convention site is 0.3 miles (500 meters).
Eating in Helsinki
Please describe the restaurant scene near your site.
The restaurants at the convention site itself are being completely renovated and expanded during the summer of 2013. Currently there are 17 restaurants and cafés at the convention site with 4000 seats altogether. The food ranges from a’la carte to salads, tapas, home made lunch, sandwiches, baked goods, ice cream and candy in addition to various alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, sodas, juices and various types of coffee. The convention site also has four fast food restaurants: Pizza Hut, local hamburger joint Hesburger, Wok’n’Curry and Pasta Sapore.
We are expecting to have nearly all of the restaurants and cafés open during the convention which means about 3500 to 3700 seats. The opening hours are being negotiated with the convention site but we expect most of the cafés and restaurants to be open as long as we have ongoing program and some to be open longer.
Outside of the convention centre, finding a fine-dining restaurant may involve a 5 minute train trip to the centre of Helsinki. There are several fantastic pubs with fannish history in Helsinki, particularly St. Urho’s Pub. Overall, Helsinki is a good city to eat in; it currently hosts five Michelin-starred restaurants.
The restaurants in Finland traditionally open around noon and close some time between 9 PM and 2 AM. Most of the restaurants serve lunch between 11 AM and 2 PM but there may be exceptions. It is very traditional to have lunch before noon in Finland. The restaurants with both lunch and a’la carte served will serve food all day. The traditional time for dinner in Finland is 5 PM. Please notice most of the restaurants will close their kitchen an hour before the restaurant closes. For more info about the location, types and opening hours of the restaurants, take a look at our Helsinki in 2015 Google Map.
Will I be able to get Chinese, Thai, Kosher etc food in Helsinki? I have allergies, is it possible for me to eat at a restaurant?
Helsinki has a variety of restaurants with different focuses: Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Italian, French, etc. You can find hundreds of restaurants in the centre of Helsinki. Even at the convention site there is a fast food restaurant called Wok’n’Curry which serves Asian style food, especially Chinese and Indian. Currently there are no Kosher restaurants in Helsinki but there is a Kosher deli called Zaafran & Co which sells various Kosher groceries and also sandwiches and salads. The deli is located in the centre of Helsinki.
In Finland most of the restaurants prepare food low lactose as lactose intolerance is very common in Finland. Sometimes you might even find food prepared from lactose free milk or cream, which has become more common in Finland during the past few years. Most of the restaurant have a mention about the food being low lactose or lactose free. It is also possible to get food prepared without lactose or completely without milk if asked.
Coeliac disease and gluten allergy have gotten more common in Finland during the past ten or so years. It is common for restaurants to have a gluten free option on their menu. Some of the restaurants will also prepare food without any gluten in it, if asked. Most of the menus will have a mention if the food is gluten free.
Nuts and almonds are a common allergy in Finland, too. Most restaurants have started mentioning on their menus if their food contain nuts but that is not always the case. It is suggested for an allergic person to confirm from the waitress if the food is actually nut free.
Traditionally Finns have always eaten a lot of fish, especially salmon and fish from our fresh water lakes. One of the most delicious fish is pikeperch, which is considered a delicacy and often served slightly fried with boiled potatoes and a mild sauce. During the summer the new potatoes are served with a variety of fish, salads or grilled meat, often pork or beef. And of course, the Finns like their reindeer, which can be found from some upper scale restaurants in the centre of Helsinki. Mushrooms are also typically served in Finland with potatoes and meat. There are a few Finnish style restaurants in the centre of Helsinki, for example restaurant Aino, Savotta and Kaarna.
There are lots of wild berries such as blueberries, lingonberries or cloudberries growing in Finland. Other typical berries include raspberry, strawberry, currants, gooseberries and sea-buckthorn.
Finnish restaurants are very happy to help you by changing parts of the portion to something else or leaving something out altogether. As all the waiters in Helsinki speak English, it is possible to explain the situation and the allergy to them and come up with a solution that will leave you healthy but enjoying your meal!
Travel to Finland
What is the typical current airfare to your closest airport from world cities such as London, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Melbourne?
For flights available in September 2012 for a week’s stay in August 2013 and rounding up a bit, we found the following return tickets to Helsinki in economy class: London $170, Boston $900, Chicago $900, Los Angeles $1100, Melbourne $1700.
For flights now available, we have an updated chart (as of June 2013) on our Travel page!
Do international flights, as well as domestic, fly into your local airport? Which airlines? If not, where is the closest international airport? Are direct flights from the cities above flown into your local airport?
Direct flights from North America to the Helsinki International Airport (Helsinki-Vantaa) are currently available from New York and Toronto via Finnair. In the recent past direct connections to at least Boston, Chicago and Orlando have also been available seasonally, primarily via American Airlines. Excluding charter flights, 51 airlines operate from the airport.
Helsinki is the main Northern European hub for traffic between Europe and Asia. Within Europe, there are multiple daily direct connections to pretty much all the hubs (London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, etc.) at which a plane from the US or elsewhere in the world might be landing. In 2012, on average 40,000 passengers per day were served by the airport, the vast majority of which were international passengers.
For more information on travelling to Helsinki, please see our Travel page.
How far is your convention site from the nearest airport/train station and what is the likely cost of getting to the hotels by both public transport and taxi from that airport/train station?
Our site is quite close to the nearest transit options; everything in Helsinki is reasonably well-located for us.
Travel from the airport is currently €4.50 (about $6 USD) one way with public transport. As referenced above, the City of Helsinki will be providing all attending members of the convention with free public transport (subway, trams, buses, local trains, and the ferry to Suomenlinna), which should include travel back to the airport.
The nearest train station of the Helsinki Exhibition and Conference Centre is Pasila, which is a 0.3 mile (500 m) walk away, and all trains to and from Helsinki stop there, including the connections to St. Petersburg and Moscow.
The airport is 10 miles north of the convention site by car, and by 2015 will be served by a direct train connection that should get you to either Pasila or the centre of Helsinki in 15-20 minutes. Taxi from the airport is likely to cost about $40 USD at current prices.
The port of Helsinki—with regular passenger connections to Sweden, Estonia, Russia and Germany—is also well served by public transport, with all quays 10-15 minutes’ travel from the central train station. Taxi from the port to the convention site would probably cost about $20 USD.
Are there vaccinations or other specific details that need to be known before coming to Finland? Can one drink the tap water in Finland?
Coming to Finland does not require any specific vaccinations before entering the country. Finland does not have poisonous animals such as spiders or snakes (apart from the viper) and there are not many dangerous animals, either. There are some wolves and bears in the many forests of Finland but they are rarely seen in the cities. There are mosquitos in Finland but they are rarely found in the cities and they do not carry any diseases.
The tap water in Finland is not only drinkable but actually of very good quality. Especially in the countryside, the tap water can actually come straight from a natural spring. In Helsinki, the water quality is also good even though the water is cleaned before it is distributed. There are not many additional chemicals in the water and all the Finns drink the tap water instead of buying bottled water. However, it is possible to buy bottled water at grocery stores but the price may be high due to the low demand. For more information on the water quality, please visit the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority’s website.
What is the langauge(s) spoken in Finland? Can one get by with using English?
It is possible to get by very well with English everywhere in Finland as nearly everyone in Finland speaks English. The official languages of Finland are Finnish (suomi) and Swedish (svenska).
Useful phrases in Finnish include:
- Thank you:
- Hei! or Moi!
- Excuse me:
- I’m sorry:
For more useful Finnish phrases, watch the video below:
A second part to this fannish Finnish language lesson is also available.
What languages will the program be in?
Most of the program will be in English. The participants in the English language program will be either native speakers from around the world or people who are fluent with English. There will be one or two program tracks in Finnish and Swedish. There will not be any simultaneous interpretation organised by the convention.