Davos this year might have drawn headlines for its first ever quota for female delegates, but there’s one group of women the event has always catered for: the “Davos wives”. Anya Stiglitz, wife of the economist Dr Joseph Stiglitz (pictured together), has this year been spilling the beans in a series of blog posts on the spouses’ predicament.
It seems the poor dears are simply overwhelmed with invitations to specially prepared events – a kind of crèche for the wives of the world’s leaders, if you will, where the ladies can go “cross country skiing, ice driving an Audi and the ubiquitous open sleigh ride”. But if you think it’s a cakewalk being a Davos wife, think again. Stiglitz is kind enough to let us in on the long list of provisions against hardship: chapstick, sleeping pills, soap, flannel pyjamas, a torch and, most austerely of all “a thick coat to pad the inevitable falls on the ice”. “I always wear my bargain basement Turkish shearling to Davos,” she adds, reasonably.
And under the thick coat? “A thick skin. I developed this over the years. It’s a vital protection from the barrage of snubs that are bound to come my way.” Still, as she points out, the danger of a snub is really not so bad when one considers Davos’ past form, a town “whose original claim to fame was housing the tuberculosis sanatorium in Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain”. Perhaps we should have picked up one of those freebie hand sanitisers being given out by Zurich Financial Services Group after all...
Delegates were hitting it hard as soon as they arrived in town on Tuesday, crowding into the famous Piano Bar at Hotel Europe, host to many a sozzled karaoke night. So surely all these leading business lights were thrilled to bits at the prospect of some serious economic discourse? Not quite. The craze of the moment was, in fact, “Four Square”. For those unversed, Four Square is a GPS-tracking app that involves “checking in” on your smartphone every time you visit a certain location in order to score a point. The person with the most check-ins is then designated virtual “mayor” of the location.
Proving that healthy competition is at the heart of any serious business concern, a small core of delegates has sparked up a competition to win the mayoralty of the Congress Centre. Reports are that Nat Rothschild was tempted to join the fray, but no word yet on his ranking. The current winner is an anonymous Hendryk M, with 13 visits. Do you know this illustrious mayor’s identity? Let us know.
Davos veteran and panel chair Michael Elliot of Time Magazine was keen to stir up trouble among his panellists. Turning to two representatives from Asia, he demanded: “Do you think Asians are fed up with the west because the Europeans can’t get their houses in order, Americans can’t sort out long-term budget deficits and Asians are fed up of being lectured?” Chinese economist and IMF advisor Zhu Min hesitated. “Lectured? This is a tough question. It’s much easier for you (to answer),” he said, turning to his Indian neighbour, software tycoon Azim Premji.
“I didn’t quite understand the question,” Premji deadpanned, quick as a flash. Now that’s crisis management.