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The largest – and arguably most innovative – international convention ever hosted in Estonia kicked off this Monday with the opening of the Junior Chamber International World Congress in Tallinn.

As many as 4,000 delegates from 105 countries packed the Saku Suurhall arena for Monday evening’s welcoming ceremony, with the strongest contingent, numbering 1,250 members, coming from Japan. The unusual size of the week-long gathering has proven a test for the city, which lacks a purpose-built conference centre of that scale. Several sports halls and popular event venues were collectively pressed into service to accommodate the crowds.

Sustainability is one of the central themes of the congress, which itself aims to have a low environmental impact. In addition to strategies of going plastic-, paper- and gift bag- free, organisers have introduced some ambitious green solutions. Delegates have been asked to bring their own coffee mugs and water bottles, and a drive was held to collect people’s spare cutlery for use at the Global Village international food event. In a first for the country, Tervise Catering and the Estonian Food Bank are cooperating to serve 1,000 congress guests a lunch made entirely of donated food that would have otherwise gone to waste.

Not coincidentally, that lunch takes place on Friday, which has been designated the congress’s Clean World Day. The day focuses on what individuals and companies can do to improve the environment and will feature a keynote address by Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid.

Beyond its sustainability motif, much of the congress will be linked to what makes Estonia globally famous, namely subjects in the tech realm. The programme includes keynotes by Estonian e-society leaders and unicorn startup founders, as well as a hackathon and a pitching workshop.

The size of the gathering is matched by its equally impressive list of side activities and post-conference tours. The dozens of offerings run the gamut from company visits and home hospitality dinners to rafting, winter swimming and even a burlesque class.

The full congress programme can be found at https://www.jciwc2019.com/program/