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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 January 2006, 22:30 GMT
When 2,500 people chase their Davos moment
By Tim Weber
Business Editor, BBC News website, in Davos

The World Economic Forum 2006, which ended on Sunday, had plenty of stars and serious topics, but not everybody found his Davos moment.

Actress Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie spent much of her time besieged by TV cameras

Davos still has its mega-stars.

Here is Angelina Jolie, except one can't see her amidst the scrum of television cameras.

There is Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, looking like the PhD candidate that he still claims to be.

He can barely move, stopped every couple of metres by yet another businessman in immaculate attire, hoping for a brief chat.

The Congress Hall is packed when Bill Clinton speaks, and millionaires and billionaires happily queue for half an hour to hear Bill Gates explain the world.

Davos moments

It makes for plenty of Davos moments, these instances that probably could happen only here at the World Economic Forum.

Political moments: Hamas wins the Palestinian elections, and dozens of the region's top politicians - from Israel's former Prime Minister Shimon Peres to Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa - are at hand to interpret the results.

Technology moments: Sitting in a session on the digital future - Bill Gates, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, Cisco boss John Chambers and Skype inventor Niklas Zennstroem are on the panel - and the guy sitting next to you turns out to be J Allard, the man responsible for Microsoft's Xbox 360.

Actor Michael Douglas
Michael Douglas enjoyed his jazz interlude
Economic moments: Trade officials hammer out a deal and get straight on to a podium to explain to the assembled business world how they did it.

Celebrity moments: Bopping along to a fantastic New Orleans jazz band at the forum's farewell gala, and the man you are rubbing shoulders with turns out to be actor Michael Douglas.

When Davos pales

More than 240 sessions are packed into four-and-a-half days, with events from seven o'clock in the morning until midnight.

They range from the serious "Could a nuclear bomb go off in your city?" to the frivolous "All you ever wanted to know about relationships, but were afraid to ask" (which turned out to be the most in-demand session of the whole week).

The Middle East dominated Davos politics; oil prices, globalisation and the rise of India and China were big business topics.
Security guards clearing up at the World Economic Forum
The networking is over and the clean-up begins

And yet many delegates found this year's Davos wanting.

"This is my sixth time in Davos, but this year it's feeling flat," says Kevin Parry, the boss of Management Consulting Group.

"I didn't learn a lot in many of the sessions... the forum is missing original thought and provocation," he says.

Stefan Aversa, managing director of corporate restructuring specialists AlixPartners, agrees.

"There was too little controversy," he says. "The best sessions were the private meetings and industry meetings."

This year's forum went back to business, cutting back the sessions on politics and social issues, catering to the interests of chief executives instead.

Still, some felt that their needs were not quite met. "There's just not enough technology on this year's programme," complains Marc Benioff, the founder of salesforce.com.

Extreme networking

Peter Friedli is unconcerned: "People have all these huge expectations when they come to Davos. I like it this year, everybody is more at ease and I've learned new things."

But for many, the sessions are not the main reason to come here anyway.

"Last year I went to just one session. The rest of the week I spent in 40, 50 meetings," says Sheikh Mohammed bin essa Al Khalifa, chief executive of the Bahrain Development board.

"At least this year I managed to go to a few more sessions," he said.

It is these meetings that make Davos so unique.

Between sessions the halls are a swirling sea of people where business cards are swapped and old friendships renewed.

Quick huddles in the conference centre's concrete corridors; relaxed chats on the white leather sofas lining the great lounge; formal meetings in the "bilateral rooms" tucked away in corners of the congress centre.

Business tycoon  Richard Branson
Richard Branson found plenty of people to talk to
That is where Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai meets political leaders, where Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath discusses the finer points of the proposed timetable for a global trade deal.

"In Davos one can act more quickly, everybody you need to talk to is here," says Sir Richard Branson.

It is Sir Richard's first time in Davos and he is pushing his latest project - a "war room" to co-ordinate help for Africa.

"The past 48 hours were some of the most fascinating hours of my life.

"I've met Kofi Annan, Bill Gates, the Nigerian president, a whole lot of fascinating people - I achieved a lot," he says. "No time for skiing, sadly."

And then there are the parties and receptions every evening - dozens of them at the same time.

By the fourth day some participants clearly required large doses of espresso to stay awake.

But he who is tired of Davos, is tired of networking.




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