Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Security high at Sundance for suits
There’s a relaxed feel on the train to Davos, as normally staid business travelers eschew polished shoes for hiking boots on their way to the World Economic Forum.
With a dress-down policy, free-thinking agenda and pretty ski resort backdrop, the annual meeting could be viewed as something of a Sundance festival for suits, drawing comparisons to the leftfield Utah film festival.
Yet behind the scenes at Davos, there’s a far-from-relaxed security operation that has seen hundreds of police deployed to ensure that only those invited to Davos get in.
A simple stroll through this snowy town involves several checks as friendly but firm officers in uniform scrutinize ID badges, looking to weed out undesirables. Checks at the entrance to the main buildings increase by the hour.
The steely security is by no means over the top, with world leaders, leading business figures and a smattering of celebrities converging on the town’s hotels and conference halls.
Terror risks aside, there is however little likelihood of the kind of messy and sometimes violent protests that have dogged other global finance meetings, thanks to Davos’ remote location.
Two (expensive) train rides from the nearest major city or a long and slippery drive through snow-covered roads keep the town at arm’s length from many.
Those resourceful enough to reach here then face another problem – where to stay. Expensive at the best of times, accommodation is at a premium during the five-day forum, with hotels sold out months in advance.
For residents who remain in town for the forum, the huge police presence must seem a little ironic. Crime rates are low in Switzerland and even lower in tiny resort towns like Davos, where displays of extreme wealth are everywhere.
This has one happy consequence on the train to Davos, where my traveling companion – a professional photographer covering the forum – absentmindedly left a rucksack containing more than $20,000 worth of equipment.
In many places, the bag would have vanished in seconds, its contents sold on.
Here, its battered exterior is probably viewed with disdain from well-heeled passengers, and it arrives safely unmolested at the station’s lost property department.
-- From CNN.com Digital Producer Barry Neild in Davos
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