The prize for most obnoxious party at Davos was won on the first night, with the Davos Tasting put on by the Wine Forum.
One of the big changes to the ecology of the Davos conference center this year, after its $37 million revamp, is that there’s now a whole level at the top which is off-limits to the working press and accessible only to fully-fledged delegates with coveted white cards. There are a couple of conference rooms up there — called Aspen 1 and Aspen 2 — which is normally no big deal, given that the working press isn’t allowed in to conference sessions anyway.
Remember those off-the record comments by “top executives from Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered” which indicated that the era of contrition had come to an end? Well, they’re on the record now, splashed all over the front page of this morning’s FT. Goldman’s Gary Cohn is coming out swinging, saying that the real danger to the global economy is now posed by unregulated non-banks, while Peter Sands of Standard Chartered reckons that most bank regulations will no more prevent another crisis than seatbelts on airplanes will prevent a plane crash.
Just as the most interesting sessions at Davos are the ones you know the least about beforehand, the most interesting people tend to turn out to be the ones you’ve never heard of. If you do happen to find yourself talking to Bill Clinton or Bono or Dmitry Medvedev, you’ll probably be part of a large crowd of people and the conversation is likely to be superficial at best. On the other hand, if you just sit down on a random couch in the Congress Center, there’s a really good chance that sitting next to you will be a fascinating and very useful person to know.
On Friday, Lance Knobel rose to the defense of the World Economic Forum. On Saturday, I was cornered by a particularly aggressive Young Global Leader, who had taken the oath, and whose plans for making the world a better place I developed a severe aversion to quite early, at exactly the time that he used the word “platform” as a verb. On Sunday I talked to another YGL who had also taken the oath and was happy to defend it. And today I stumbled across a piece of Davos PR fluff claiming that “the Forum has reached a worldwide audience of 430 million readers online namely through the use of social networks”.
Every so often at Davos you have a short, startling conversation which completely changes the way you think about a subject — and I just had one of those standing next to Dan Barber, the chef of Blue Hill Farm. He’s a very smart, very funny guy, who’s passionate about food on every level from preparing the ingredients of the dishes in his restaurants to the logistics of feeding the planet.