Magnificent seventh

In a year of shocks and surprises (mostly shocks), one thing that could be depended upon was the Eurobuild Awards Gala, which took place, as it did last year, at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Warsaw’s Wawer district on December 6th.

The venue has the largest ballroom in the capital city – and it had to be, in order to accommodate the 831 guests at what is now Poland’s premier real estate event. The surroundings were so sumptuous that even a billionaire president-elect wouldn’t have seemed out of place there, although it might have all been a bit more tasteful than what he’s used to. The guests were greeted at the entrance with a glass of bubbly supplied by drinks sponsor Xplan, as were the many prizes that could be won if you were lucky enough to peel back one of the winning stickers on the glass. Your correspondent was among this lucky number and then able to wear the prize, a bow-tie, for the rest of the evening (if you are suspicious about this, I can assure you that this outcome was in no way ‘rigged’, to employ a recent buzzword). All of this contributed to the high spirits as people mingled with acquaintances old and new in the DoubleTree’s spacious foyer, before they all happily filed in (I won’t say “trumped in”) to their seats in the ballroom for the main event.

The stage was ornamented by both the latest wonder of technology, a rain curtain that displayed the Gala’s logo in ripples of water (but this was silver rain, not golden), and by the Voice of Poland finalist Mateusz Krautwurst, aptly performing ‘Singing in the Rain’. As the salmon carpaccio and the rest of the haute cuisine and wine was served, it was the turn of our consummate hosts to take the stage: Eurobuild CEE’s editor-in-chief Ewa Andrzejewska and Piotr Kraśko – a journalist, TV host and news presenter familiar to anyone who regularly watches Dzień Dobry TVN in the morning, although I doubt very much whether many of the guests were up in time to watch it the next day after the evening’s revelry (but more about that later). The news the hosts had come to share with us was anything but fake – it was the identities of those companies, individuals and projects that have been judged by the experts, their peers and end-users as the best of the year. This year’s Eurobuild Awards featured a total of 90 nominees in 32 categories, and in fact 35 statuettes were presented to 2016’s star performers over the evening. This time the voting process has been refined to make it fairer, more transparent and freer from Russian governmental interference than ever before. The first to be announced were the Popular Vote winners, voted for by the guests of the event using the electronic devices provided. But unlike some other exercises in democracy this last year, this time the outcomes all seem eminently sensible. Łódź mayor Hanna Zdanowska was the surprise but deserving winner of the Real Estate Personality of the Year award, for her sterling service in transforming the infrastructure of her city and turning the former industrial powerhouse into a genuine contender for attracting business once again. Office Tenant of the Year went to Deloitte for leasing most of the spanking new Q22 building in Warsaw, while the award for Outstanding Non-Business Achievement of the Year was presented to JLL for the 7th Charity Real Estate Beach Volleyball Tournament on the banks of the Vistula. The consultancy was one of the big winners of the night, carrying away seven trophies. But the culmination of the ceremony was the Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Paul Gheysens, the president of Ghelamco Group, the announcement of which came as a genuine surprise to all the guests, since somehow we managed to avoid any of our emails being hacked and leaked revealing the identity of the winner.

“I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps – and find I’m A-number-one, top of the list, king of the hill, top of the heap…” – sentiments I’m sure that have never ever occurred to one particularly modest blond-coiffed, perma-tanned New Yorker who’s been in the news lately. [Ok – enough US election references now! Ed.] The Sinatra classic was ably sung during the interval by another star of Polish TV talent shows, John James. Charitable foundationshave also been in the news recently [final warning! watch it – Ed.], but one that is entirely above-board is the Iskierka Foundation, which provides support for children suffering from cancer and their families. This foundation was the beneficiary of the fund-raising during the Gala, involving a prize lottery, which raised more than PLN 9,000, and the auction of a 6-litre bottle of Amour de Deutz 2002 Chardonnay, kindly donated by Robert Mielżyński, the owner of Mielżyński Winiarnia. With the help of comedian and TV presenter Szymon Majewski in the role of auctioneer, the bottle fetched the handsome sum of PLN 32,000, which together with the proceeds of the lottery will make a wonderful contribution towards a very good cause indeed. The curtain was drawn on the main event by John James and Armenian-Ukrainian star Asmik Shiroyan, singing a duet of ‘Time of My Life’ – something we’re sure many of the winners must be having in their business lives at the moment.

All the singers so far mentioned, including another Voice of Poland contestant, Kasia Dereń, then moved to the stage in the foyer to perform their greatest hits. Real estate professionals are a sight to behold when they are finally able to let their hair down, transforming into dancing queens and disco kings. And they were certainly not shy in strutting their funkiest stuff to these songs and those played in the disco that followed. Dawn was fast approaching when the last guests, worn out but happy, finally made their way to the Brexit… I mean, the exit. We hope to see you all next year for more deserving winners, charity fund-raising, fine food and wonderful entertainment – all helping to make real estate great again! [oh, I give up… Ed.]