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Sunday, 26 January, 2003, 12:07 GMT
Davos denies protesters an audience
Davos protest
Protesters have big business in their sights

So now I know what it feels like to be, say, Brigitte Bardot.

You know. That "stop looking at my chest" feeling.

It's all to do with the identification badge that swings over the bosoms of each Davos delegate. (Although the elastic is not too generous. Some thicker necked participants seem to be wearing theirs as chokers).

On it World Economic Forum supremos have printed your name and employer.

Perhaps they should have made the type a little bigger, I don't know.

But I had never appreciated that sense of invasion a late-middle aged man can cause by leering at nipple height.

Especially the short-sighted American executive who had left his spectacles in his hotel.

All Davos is a stage

Still it certainly breaks the ice at the snowbound business and political jamboree that is the World Economic Forum's annual summit, in Davos. (Europe's largest skiing resort, yes I know.)

I hope they do not use water cannon - the water is so cold here

Raphael Klyn, protester
And, indeed, the badges divide the pack, like scouts. Those awarded white badges with holograms (your excellency) from the greens, the blues from the oranges (lowly media).

Splits them for security reasons, that is.

For the annual summit is not one event. All Davos is a stage.

Deals and meals

The main conference hall, where the all-access meetings are held, and the side-rooms, where orange press badges hold no currency.

The timetabled dinners, where moderators ensure "lively interaction at their table". (Reporters are again excluded, dammit).

And the hotel suites, hosting hushed tete-a-tete's open to none but the biggest tetes. Where US Secretary of State Colin Powell and a Turkish delegation are reported to have struck a foreign-aid for Iraq-aid agreement.

It is a theatre of deals and meals, for the, largely, well heeled. Access - exclusive or more so.

Lone protester

And that was a major gripe of the anti-globalisation protesters who, on Saturday, had hoped to march past the conference centre, but were denied access even to most of Davos's streets.

"It is wrong that all this goes on behind closed doors," said Raphael Klyn, a Dutch student of political science.

Protester Michael
Protester Michael: "We want justice"

"These are democratically elected people. I want to talk to them."

Mr Klyn had bussed 10 hours from Amsterdam the day before to join the protest.

And he was lucky - he had arrived. Unlike the 1,500 reportedly stranded 20 miles up the line by security measures.

Indeed, Mr Klyn, veteran of demonstrations at G8 meetings, was a one-man anti-capitalist bandwagon for the morning.

It was not for an hour after high Davos noon before it became at all clear why quite so many police had been called, with quite so many riot shields.

("I hope they do not use water cannon," Mr Klyn said, quite straight faced. "The water is so cold here.")

Why shops were closed, with some boarded up, and others bearing the sign "US - no war please" in a feeble bid to appease the swelling rabble, and be spared a call to Davos Glaziers the next day.

Protest menagerie

The BBC was caught in the first whooping bunch of demonstrators that came through - George Bush, or someone who looked like him in a cardboard cut-out sort of way, Donald Rumsfeld, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

I have no time for these people

Pere Roquet, president Caixa Bank

A pinstripe-suited pig scattering photocopied and defaced dollars, monkeys bowing before a golden calf, a trio of veterans of G8 protests, and a computer worker called Michael who wore a snout between drags of a vile cigar.

"We want justice," he wheezed. "The gap between these people and the poor is too big."

Indeed, so far away was the conference centre, that delegates continued benignly unaware of the clamour.

Actions speak louder...

Not that most minded.

"I have no time for these people," said Pere Roquet, president of Andorra's Caixa Bank.

"I see what they are trying to say, but actions speak louder than words," he said, reeling off development projects in Kenya, India and Peru he had supported.

"There are a lot of people like this in the conference centre. We are not all so bad."

Youth power

Still, a group of highly motivated 20-somethings had, by the end of the evening, managed to steal through even the police cordon and badge checks to occupy the central hall.

Indeed, the 112-strong UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra went down a storm.

"Wonderful energy, I have never heard Berlioz better," orchestra director Martin Engstoem said after a rousing performance of Symphonie Fantastique.

"These young musicians are outstanding ambassadors, building trust and goodwill and creating harmony and pleasure wherever they go," said UBS chairman Marcel Ospel.

If only it were true, that a harp or viola wielded more political power than a breast-height white badge with hologram.

Conference colour

Eyewitness accounts


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