Hugely successful Web Summit ends in bizarre outpouring of indignation

After four days in which the capital buzzed with the spirit of innovation, the Web Summit came to what should have been a glittering ‘final farewell until next year’ with a sumptuous candlelit banquet in the main hall of the National Pantheon – the 17th century monument in which a number of truly illustrious Portuguese lie buried.

The Pantheon has been used for gala evenings in the past – indeed, it has even been hired out to launch one of the books in the Harry Potter saga (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in 2003 ) – but for reasons still largely unclear its choice by organisers of the Web Summit has been ripped to shreds.

“Absolutely undignified”, said prime minister António Costa, “lamentable and unfortunate” , said his PCP allies, “inadequate”, said President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

Yet the nation’s best-read tabloid has explained that the Pantheon “receives on average two dinners a week in a space where costs can reach €3000, depending on the number of guests”.

So why all the fuss? Particularly after such a wonderfully attended event that brought an estimated €300 million into the national economy?

The answer is truly unclear.

According to Expresso, “the current government blames the last, the previous government blame this one”.

In the middle of the furore, resourceful Web Summit organiser Paddy Cosgrove says he did not mean to upset anybody.

In a statement released into the arena of outrage and indignation, he said: “This was a dinner organised according to the rules of the Pantheon National, and carried out with respect.

“Web Summit was trying to honour the history of Portugal and have our guests appreciate the storied past of this country.

“Culturally, the Irish (Cosgrove’s heritage) celebrate death and in the past the most important dinner at founders has taken place at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, in the largest crypt in the UK and Ireland.

“We apologise for our attempt to celebrate founders in this way”.

Nonetheless, virulent political insults ping-ponged back and forth throughout the weekend, with the bottom line being that this government will be altering the law – introduced during the last – that sanctions these sort of events being possible in Portugal’s more illustrious ‘cultural spaces’.

PM Costa – who has not come out of this latest incident smelling of roses – says that in doing so the government means to ensure that similar situations that “violate History, collective memory and national symbols” can not be seen to happen again.

It has to be said that the space rented out to Web Summit, and other initiatives in the past, is not one shared by tombs or any remains of the dead.

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