You'd think Boston had just landed the Olympics. That's how jubilant its mayor and tourism and convention officials were at a press conference in the city's North End last week. They announced the return of IDG World Expo's Macworld Conference & Expo to Boston, after having been at New York's Javits Center since 1998. But just hours later, Apple Computer Inc. announced it would not support a Boston-based Macworld, stunning those same city officials and Framingham, Mass.-based IDG. On Monday, IDG confirmed that it is in discussions with Apple to support the East Coast show.

The announcement that the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC) will be home to Macworld Conference & Expo July 12 to 15, 2004, was heralded by the city's convention officials and politicians, who offered a number of incentives to lure Macworld back. The show is expected to be a catalyst for more "definite" bookings at the new center, and to ultimately bring millions of dollars to the city's economy.

"I am so overly excited, words can't describe it," said Charlie Greco, IDG World Expo President and CEO, and a Boston native, at the press conference. Macworld, which drew more than 58,000 attendees in July 2002, will remain at Javits in July 2003 before becoming the first event in the BCEC in '04, added Greco.

Macworld moved to New York in 1998, when it outgrew space it was using among three Boston convention facilities. While Apple is a very large presence at the East Coast Macworld (a second show is held in San Francisco, near Apple's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters every January), IDG said it would continue with a Boston Macworld without Apple's participation, noting that Apple was only one of 240 exhibiting companies--makers of Macintosh software and accessories--who use the show as a major marketing event.

However, the legendary keynote of Steven Jobs and the unveiling of new Apple products has been a lure for the thousands of Apple aficionados who flock to both events each year. Apple's threat to pull out led some city officials to surmise that the number of visitors, and therefore the economic impact, would be far less in '04. Greco hinted in a Boston Globe report over the weekend that Apple could no longer afford to support two huge U.S. shows. Greco also said that the insurance at Javits had skyrocketed following the September 11 attacks.

A statement later issued by IDG said, "IDG is holding ongoing discussions about Apple's role in upcoming East Coast Macworld events. On Monday, Apple and IDG confirmed that Apple will participate in Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco in January 2003 with a presence on the show floor as well as the keynote presentation from Steve Jobs."

Mayor Thomas Menino led a coalition to lure Macworld back, which included Pat Moscaritolo, president, greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau; James Rooney, director of development and construction for the new BCEC; the head of special events for the city; the hotel community; and even the Teamsters union.

Even though there were two major conventions booked on either side of the Macworld dates at the Hynes Auditorium, Boston's existing convention center in the Back Bay, those Back Bay hotels were willing to increase their "association" room blocks, and offer very competitive rates to IDG, which average around $150 a night, according to Moscaritolo.

"That's the reason we left New York," said Greco. "The room rates were too high, and the costs at the Javits had escalated to the point where our exhibitors were unhappy."

Among the concessions that the city, CVB, and center offered IDG: free rent at the BCEC for the first two years (they signed for three years and have an option on two more); significant exhibitor discounts on exhibitor-related services, including electrical, telephone, and catering services; free banner advertising on city lampposts; use of special venues for exhibitor hospitality during the show; subsidized shuttle buses for the two shuttle bus routes from the convention center to the two pockets of hotels; airline discounts; and Macworld-branded discount cards for attractions and restaurants.

Greco said the fact that a headquarters hotel would not be open at the new center by '04 was not as important as the fact that he could get his room blocks in two main hotel clusters, so that attendees wouldn't have to spend too much time on the buses.