independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Davos Diary: A world-class security cordon

Swiss police check vehicles on the first day of the World Economic Forum

SECURITY is tight in Davos. Really tight. While the setting is beautiful, everybody knows that the ski resort must be the number one terrorist target on the planet this week.

The thousands of young conscript male and female soldiers who stand guard at every crossroads manage all this with great aplomb. All of them seem to be able to move without hesitation between English, Swiss German and French and keep a smile fixed firmly to their faces.

Despite visiting Switzerland reasonably often over the past few years, your correspondent is struck once again by just how well organised society is here and how well things function from trains to conferences.

Almost no street in Davos is closed to the public despite the security threat and the atmosphere is jolly in strong contrast to the sullen mood in Dublin as the capital was brought to a standstill during the visit of Queen Elizabeth II.

BRANSON IS A FORUM VIRGIN

ONE of the interesting sights on the first day of Davos is the rich and famous trying to negotiate this security. Most of them are used to moving through airports via VIP lounges and the like without any hindrance. Some even own an airline themselves. But nobody gets through security in Davos without the right documentation.

The most powerful people in the world can sometimes look very lost and childlike when confronted with the type of pettifogging administrative issues that the rest of us face from week to week. Among those who ran into problems yesterday morning was Virgin boss Richard Branson (pictured) who was trying to get into the Congress Centre with the help of an assistant.

Dressed in jeans and a leather jacket, he was due to give a speech within five minutes but the unfazed security methodically checked passports and documentation very, very carefully to make sure that the Virgin boss was not a gate crasher but really did have permission to enter the hall.

All the while, he maintained a hurt hangdog expression that seemed to say 'what's going on?'

APPLE NO LONGER CORE OF CONFAB

Last year's Davos may have represented the peak of Apple's technological hegemony. The symbol of the world's richest technology company could be seen almost everywhere as movers and shakers took a break from networking to catch up with the folks back home.

It seemed in early 2013 that every phone, tablet and laptop in the building was designed in Cupertino. There is something oddly reassuring and democratic about the fact that your average teenager and your average billionaire use the same technology even if they use it for very different purposes.

This year, there is much more variety on display.

It seems that our political and business leaders have tired of Apple. There were plenty of Samsung devices in use and even a few Sony laptops as well as one or two firms that don't seem to have made it to Ireland yet.

It seems unlikely that many of the participants object to Apple's aggressive tax avoidance measures but perhaps they are feeling uneasy about the US government's ability to read almost everything tapped out on the company's devices.

After all, the dangers of cyber attacks are one of this year's big themes in Davos.

Irish Independent

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