Watching the sands shift at Davos

Jan 24, 2007 19:05 UTC

One of the things Davosians love best when they meet up here in the mountains each year is the ability to hash out serious ideas about where the world is going. The World Economic Forum, after all, bills itself as “committed to improving the state of the world.”

This year is no exception and about 750 of the movers and shakers here have just decided that climate change is not only likely to have more impact than anything else on the world in the years ahead but that it is by a long shot the thing that everyone is least ready for.


It worked like this. After a morning divided between seminars on business, geopolitics, technology and the economy, participants identified a dozen shifting sands likely to have the most impact on the world. These included growing emerging economies, inequality, demographics and so on. After a vote, climate change won out. Emerging economies came a close second in the “most impact” vote. Inequality was a distant second in the “least ready” category.

The problem was that climate change was a last-minute add on. One participant said it had hijacked the vote. Another accused the assembled high-flyers of having a herd mentality. There was also a mini-row over equality, with some speakers at a kind of town hall meeting saying it did not matter that some people were getting poorer because many more were getting wealthier. Others took umbrage, with one jumping up to say that inequality was driving all kinds of threats to world stability. There will eventually be a podcast of the event.

Not much to glitter about

Jan 24, 2007 14:48 UTC

SomethAngelina at WEF.jpging is missing from this year’s Davos meeting — glitz. After years of grabbing the limelight, the likes of Sharon Stone and Angelina Jolie are nowhere to be seen. Rock ‘n’ roll hasn’t died, of course: Bono is due in town on Friday to talk about Africa and Peter Gabriel is supposed to be around somewhere. But apart from that the glitterati is thin on the ground. Could it be that Davos is no longer hip?

Not so, says Klaus Schwab, the founder, executive chairman and all-round booster of the World Economic Forum whose goal is no less than shaping the global agenda. “We invited what you call ‘star’ people only the last years because they were relevant to a very specific topic,” he told celebrity-starved reporters. “This year we don’t feel in need of such a special accelerator, multiplier of the message.” Ouch!

Winter of discount tent

Jan 24, 2007 10:10 UTC

So off it goes. The World Economic Forum’s Davos 2007 meeting has begun with early discussions on the global economy — which is doing quite well, they say — and more esoteric chats about “The Legal Landscape around Climate Change” and “Exploring Identity and the Communication Disconnect”. For the hundreds of journalists gathered to cover the eventDavos-Tent.gif communication disconnect is always a major worry.

With apologies to Shakespeare, meanwhile, could this be the winter of our discount tent? The media find themselves in a tent rather than the concrete command post of yore. That bunker had a certain poignancy for reporters, at least for Reuters ones, because where they work at big events is nearly always called the bunker. At Davos, it really was one — underground and no windows.

Now we find ourselves staring out of plastic windows at growing snowfall and dropping temperatures. The tent is actually quite expensive looking and is clearly supposed to be an all-weather construction. Lets hope that doesn’t mean, when the weather’s cold, so are we.

A mysterious array of figures

Jan 23, 2007 18:57 UTC

davos_figurines_3.jpgWith all these executives, journalists and politicians swirling around Davos, local shopkeepers are likely hoping for a nice boost in business. Their shops are chock-a-block with goodies. One, however, caught the eye with a rather strange collection of figurines. It is not often that you see Jesus and what appears to be Sigmund Freud on display together.davos_figurines_2.jpg

Even more mysterious is the small figure next to them. The nice lady behind the counter at Born To Board had no idea who he was, neither did her colleagues and they are not the only one’s stumped. Any ideas?

Davos – Risks to make the mighty meek

Jan 23, 2007 13:30 UTC

It’s a scary world and for anyone wanting to know just how scary, the answer is 23. Davos organisers WEF and business friends have identified this as the core number of threats out there and have offered up an analysis in a report called Global Risks 2007. Not exactly bedtime reading for those with nervous dispositions.

The report came out earlier this month, but with more than 2,400 of the world’s mighty gathering here for their annual chat, it is perhaps a good time to revisit some of the things that can swiftly make them meek. All the usual suspects are there — international terrorism, Middle East instability, earthquakes, storms, flooding and WMD proliferation. But others also get a look in. How about the tumbling dollar, or the arrival of risks associated with nanotechnology or the spread of “life style” diseases in the rich world? It’s nearly all getting worse, too, the report says.

Scariest of all for the faint-hearted is what the report, in sombre and rather inaccessible language, calls the “fundamental disconnect between risk and mitigation”. Translated that means bad things abound and governments, businesses etc can’t deal with them. Perhaps, after all, the answer is 24.

Phew, there is snow in Davos

Jan 23, 2007 12:23 UTC

IMG_2214.jpgIt snowed in Davos on Monday night, leaving the place slightly more than lightly dusted with the white stuff. This is just as well really because with the high and mighty arriving for their annual powerfest, a Swiss Alpine ski resort loses some of its raison d’etre if there isn’t any snow. Kind of like Rio without a beach. It may also head off what was likely to be a barrage of stories from the media scrum about global warming actually being on display.

Climate change is one of the main topics at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting with no less than 17 separate sessions dedicated to the issue. The organisers say this makes it one of their “greenest” meetings ever — presumably not a reference to the grassy fields and tree tops that could be seen on the way here. There are lots of heavy hitters due to discuss the issue, including U.S. presidential candidate John McCain and BP’s outgoing group chief executive Lord Browne.

One unavoidable irony is that the Davos meeting will leave a pretty large IMG_2221.jpgcarbon footprint no matter how much offsetting is done. There are more than 2,400 academics, politicians, business leaders, NGOs and assorted hangers-on like bloggers gathering from all over the world. By some standards, this blogger’s taxi, flight and three trains to get here is not so much a footprint as a tiptoe in the snow.

Sundance parties — smaller is better

Jan 22, 2007 18:42 UTC

   Every year, reporters get the same calls from the publicists handling all the big parties on Main Street in Park City at the Sundance Film Festival, and the calls go something like this: “Justin Timberlake showed up last night, and so did Christian Slater and Teri Hatcher (pictured right)…” and whoever else. But the fact is, if you ever plan on attending the festival, those guys either come in and leave fast for a private affair, or the head to a VIP lounge somewhere, and the regular festival goers are left to mingle with young adults who come up from Salt Lake City or wannabe stars and starlets from Hollywood.

    The more interesting gatherings are the smaller dinners held before movie premieres, and they give reporters a great deal more insight into the human side of stars and films and directors. Here’s a sample of some of the early goings on.

    At the dinner for 69 year-old Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins’ “Slipstream,” USA Today reporter Anthony Breznican, who has dark hair and is in his 30s, approached the door and the young woman checking names asked for his. The publicist at the door told her, “he’s Anthony,” and she looked down the list and said, “Anthony Hopkins?” You had to laugh, and we did. Inside, the real Hopkins (pictured left)told the crowd of some 40 people or so that he relied heavily on his friend, Tony Robbins, to help keep his self-confidence high if it was flagging. Interestingly human: an Oscar winner who struggles with his ownconfidence, like we all do.
Over at the dinner for “American Crime,” the film’s star Catherine Keener (pictured left; she’s on the far right) walked around introducing herself to people, holding out her hand and saying, “Hi, I’m Catherine.” You’re like, “yeah, I know,” but it’s nice to have a star introduce herself as if you don’t. Talking with “The Savages” star Laura Linney, the conversation turns from films to snow skiing, and when relaying a personal story about your family to veteran television actress Judith Light, who stars in Sundance film “Save Me,” she offers her help, completely out of the blue with nothing in it for her.

Golden Globes loved ‘Babel’, ‘Dreamgirls’… will Oscar?

Jan 16, 2007 19:43 UTC

With Monday’s Golden Globe Awards out of the way, Hollywood’s real Oscar race gets going. The fact is the winners at Monday’s telecast were almost exactly in line with predictions after months of campaigning by Hollywood’s studios, with the one mild exception being “Babel” beating “The Departed” for best film drama.

“Dreamgirls” with three Golden Globe victories including best musical or comedy, is now the clear Oscar frontrunner. But it has two big hurdles to overcome: not enough little box office and too much award hype.
    As of Monday, it’s domestic ticket sales were $67 million, and while that is better than “Chicago” at roughly the same point in its successful 2002 Oscar bid, the fact is Oscar voters like a box office smash. Paramount’s marketing strategy all along has called for a slow rollout, but the question is whether they waited too long and interest has waned?
    Producer Laurence Mark eluded to the issue last night in his acceptance speech when he said about the movie’s win, “I’m sure we’ll be advertising it in about 10 seconds.” And don’t forget the hype factor. Oscar voters don’t like to be told which movie to favor. A backlash is possible.
    If “Dreamgirls” falters, Martin Scorsese’s crime thriller “The Departed” and cultural drama “Babel” will be close behind. The buzz is Scorsese is a near shoo-in for the best director Oscar, and that correlates strongly with a best film Oscar. 
    Yet, “The Departed” is not Scorsese’s best work, and Golden Globe voters recognized that. “Babel” is a complicated “love it,” or “just don’t quite care and grew sort of bored” type of movie. Golden Globe voters loved it. Will Oscar voters?

What signs to watch? 

For “Little Miss Sunshine” and “The Queen,” a nomination is perhaps their big victory, and don’t forget Clint Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima,” which won the Golden Globe for best foreign language film. Oscar voters like Clint.

Toyota’s Press to GM: Don’t read the papers

Jan 9, 2007 21:01 UTC

Toyota Motor North American chief Jim Press (pictured left) had simple advice for U.S. rival General Motors: don’t get hung up on what the media is writing about you.

“Don’t read the newspapers. You’re doing fine. Just keep doing what you’re doing,” he said to analysts at an event in conjunction with the Detroit auto show.

Press, responding to a question about what advice he had for GM, said he didn’t presume to tell the U.S. automaker what to do. Toyota is expected to pass GM as the world’s largest automaker this year.

China’s Changfeng aims not to disappoint

Jan 9, 2007 00:58 UTC

Changfeng Motor paved a new path, becoming the first Chinese automaker to debut a vehicle at the Detroit auto show with its Liebao SUV (pictured right with Changfeng Chairman Li Jianxin, right, and an auto show executive).

Changfeng — with a marketing slogan of “Never Makes You Disappointed” – joins a growing list of Chinese automakers who have announced plans to enter the U.S. auto market. 

The Wall Street Journal said the Chinese government is pushing hard to establish the country’s industry as a global player.