Knives, Entourages and Lessons Learned
News Editor, CNBC.com
It takes a lot to turn a ski resort into a world financial center.
Most of Davos went smoothly, but other parts could use a little more 'collaborative innovation.'
The conflicting theories of what the financial markets will do this year and where global economies are heading, are beginning to blend together in my mind. But there are a few things I've definitely learned from the World Economic forum.
Pizza parlors in Davos could shut down for the rest of 2008 and still end the year in the black.
There are official WEF transit vans and not-so-official vans with WEF signs. (I waited 15 minutes while a driver stopped to deliver dozens of eggs to the back of a restaurant and he asked for a tip at the end of the ride.)>
The Belvedere hotel lunch buffet is not free. I hesitated, but a couple of the media got hit with a charge of 80 Swiss francs for taking some smoked salmon.
Research In Motion's BlackBerry rules business. There wasn't an Apple iPhone in sight.
When approaching somebody with secret service protection remove your hands from your pockets (no matter how cold it is) and tread loudly.
There is no substitute for warm dry socks.
Here's some other observations -- and funny moments -- of the week.
Arming the Participants
Davos security is tight, starting with police badge checks, followed by x-ray bag and coat scans and metal detectors and a final computerized badge scan. Security ranges from people with badges that say police to those with ear pieces to bodyguards with vests and clearly packing heat. But that didn't stop Swiss national television from giving every guest that appeared on air a Swiss Army knife as a souvenir.
This left a lot of perplexed execs wondering whether to try and smuggle them through metal detectors or just drop a knife in the snow for anybody to pick up
What is wrong with giving out chocolate?
The Color of Badges
Different colored badges allow access to different areas at the annual meeting. White ones allow access to all areas, including the executive lounge. But some white badges are more equal than others -- some appear to come with a hologram, giving access to rooms the media can only imagine visiting. (This could be the basis for the rumor that there is an underground facility in Davos accessible only by the bright blue water slide next to the center.)
But the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan have shown that to really be the elite of the elite at Davos you need a security entourage that will bowl over anyone in its path. Camera crews are naturally drawn to the commotion. And even former Treasury Secretary John Snow got a bit roughed up by Musharraf's team as he tried to greet Pakistan's leader in the lobby of the Belvedere.
Media badges are yellow, making roving reporters easy to spot and dismiss with a wave of the hand in the common areas of the Congress Center. One CNBC producer drifted into a white-badge area, attracting considerable attention. Eventually he was escorted through the coat-check room to a back exit, probably because security didn't want anyone to know they had let a yellow-badger slip by.
The Fashion Trend
While watching videos of Davos guests on CNBC.com, keep an eye out for what the well-dressed business personality is wearing. The jacket of CNBC Europe's deputy head of news has been draped on a few people who underestimated the Davos chill, including Columbia University Professor and Noble Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz and Sony Chairman & CEO Howard Stringer.
Another guest inadvertently took off with a crew member's jacket that had his passport in the front pocket.
Avoiding a Davos Faceplant
Hats are more common than usual and cover a wide range of styles. Their merits are obvious but bad hair is an issue..
Footwear, however is literally a tricky question. You're faced with sitting in the hotel and conference center in moon boots or braving the outside with loafers. I've seen no one brave high heels so far, but clip-on snow cleats, called crampons, are selling fast.
One CNBC Europe guest was so concerned with the icy conditions he asked a producer to support him by the arm all the way from the camera spot back to the congress center. Over-cautious, perhaps, but you don't want to run into Condoleezza Rice dripping with slush.