Winning bid announced for 2015
Avenida Paseo de la Reforma at night
After just over a month of deliberation, the Wikimania jury has selected Wikimedia Mexico's bid to host Wikimania 2015 in Mexico City, with a proposed date of 15–19 July. This choice, pending WMF staff review, will be only the second annual Wikimedia movement conference to be held in the Spanish-speaking world in Wikimania's 11-year history, after the Buenos Aires Wikimania in 2009. Mexico City's exotic mixture of modern and colonial elements and its dynamic economy are likely to provide an exciting backdrop to the event. Indeed, Mexico City is the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world, with 22 million people in its greater metropolitan area. An unusual feature of the city is its altitude, at 2,200 meters, or more than 7,000 feet—a challenge for some athletes at the 1968 Summer Olympics in the city.
Mexico City's stock exchange building
Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City
Ivan Martínez, president of Wikimedia Mexico, in a 2012 interview on local TV.
Mexico City beat two other proposals—Cape Town, South Africa; and Monastir, Tunisia—after bids from Bali, Indonesia; and Dar es Salaam and Arusha, both in Tanzania, and Esino Lario in Italy's Lake Como region were either withdrawn, disqualified, or otherwise ruled out. One jury member, the UK chapter's Richard Symonds, wrote on the Wikimedia mailing list that "the reason we disqualified Bali and Dar es Salaam was that those two bids were not really complete enough to score". There have been calls for the details of scoring to be made public.
Speakers are likely to include prominent experts in the fields of Wikimedia values, free culture, and the future in the Spanish-speaking context. The strengths of the bid are listed as conference facilities, public transport (although "Mexico City has daily transit troubles and numerous protests at their main streets"), and internet connectivity, with relatively cheap international flights, especially to North America, uncomplicated visa arrangements, and a low cost of living. Although just over two years old, the chapter says it has established relationships with government, the cultural sector, companies, and NGOs, a high media profile, and experience in the organisation and development of international events. Much is made of the location as a tourist destination, with a "huge variety of international restaurants, gourmet and regional food", and a large range of "luxury brands and stores".
However, Mexico City has its drawbacks, such as a lack of available large-scale accommodation (against the significant advantage of the single hotel for all participants at the recent Berlin conference; see related Signpost coverage). It will not be possible to walk to the venue—about $10,000 has had to be allocated to shuttle buses to and from the venue and accommodation. The chapter wrote that there is a chance of "sudden fee changes", "slow response of institutions and procedures", and higher prices in the summer peak season.
What about safety? The WMF's Steven Walling wrote on the Wikimedia-l mailing list that "Mexico tends to have a reputation for violent crime. Sources do seem to suggest Mexico City proper may be better, but it would be comforting to hear how we've assessed the bid regarding the safety issue, and how we're going to be prepared in case the worst (robberies, kidnappings) do happen." Safety is "not a small concern", according the Foundations's Philippe Beaudette, who assures Wikimedians that the WMF team is working on it.
The total income for the Mexican bid is listed as nearly US$450k, which includes a WMF grant of $300k, sponsorships of $100k, registration fees of $40k from 1500 projected attendees (the largest previous Wikimania was in 2012 with 1400 attendees), and other grants and revenue of $9k. The expenses are listed as some $344k. Costs will include $25k for CCTV, streaming, and recording, in addition to $28k for Wi-Fi, electricals, and audio. Audio for the main stage alone will be an additional $18k, and AV display equipment for three rooms another $10k, with $2k for electricians.
There is an unexplained $34k for library and garden furniture; and for participants, knick-knacks like pens, stickers, notebooks, t-shirts, backpacks will set us back $60k, not including stationery for sessions ($3k) and printing for participants' program kits and sundries ($8k). Ivan Martínez, the president of Wikimedia Mexico, told us that while the conference's venue will be donated free of charge, "we have to rent furniture and other equipment to hold proper sessions for this amount of people." As for the $60k, "This is a high estimate and will be dependent on how much sponsorship we can raise. We have already discussed going over this item and others in the budget in more detail with the WMF conference staff. They thought it was high as well."
Wikimedia Mexico has no paid staff, so project management and "expenditures of volunteers" will come to $17k, with the matter of employing regular chapter volunteers on projects a delicate one. "Waitress service" may rankle a bit with those who are keen to see the Wikimedia movement embrace the genders on equal terms.
While Wikimedia Mexico's proposed budget was higher than those of the South African and Tunisian bids, Martinez explained that "When preparing the budget, we were not trying to match or be competitive with the Cape Town bid. The Foundation gave direction that the budget should be close to $300,000, and that is what our team was aiming for. There are some items like promotional materials and video that are higher, but these items are also dependent on our obtaining sponsorships to cover part of the expense."
Specific budget items will evolve over the next few months.
In related news, Garfield Byrd, the Foundation's chief of finance and administration, has advised the Signpost that the financial report from last year's Wikimania has been received. The report, which was due within three months after the August event, has been the subject of a succession of queries from both the Foundation and the Signpost, and a final deadline of 15 April to avoid external auditing. Byrd says: "Once we have agreement on the report with Wikimedia Hong Kong, we would expect the Wikimedia Hong Kong will post it on Meta where comments and feedback can be posted".