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The World Economic Forum was founded by Mr. Klaus Schwab and supported by Mr. Bruno Gerber, the recently retired Director and General Manager of the Davos Tourism Office in an attempt to fill empty tourist beds in the last week of January of each year. While Mr. Schwab has promised to return the WEF to Davos in January 2003, he has already informed the Davosers that he will be moving the WEF to Whistler in 2004. Is this a done deal?
The World Economic Forum started with humble beginnings and grew steadily until it was reaching, to my knowledge, approximately 2,000 delegates with an additional half again in press and media. Unfortunately, the amount of violence in the community has escalated substantially during the last four years to the point where the citizens of Davos became fed up. For our council to tell us that the deal had to be kept secret not to hurt the feelings of Davos is to bend the facts substantially. To my knowledge, after the "debacle in Davos" in January 2001, the WEF was asked politely to shop around and see if some other unwitting community would accept their elite entourage of politicians, corporate giants and hangers-on.
After a visit to Whistler last spring by Klaus Schwab himself, there was a push on to nominate and award the WEF event to Whistler as soon as possible. Fortune arose in at least two ways. Firstly, a number of the true leaders of Whistler exhibited reticence over the idea to the point where our elected officials decided to at least postpone the event and secondly, Sept. 11 hit New York City, which was able to accept the World Economic Forum on relatively short notice as a "symbolic gesture."
So what happened in Davos last year? According to the leaders and locals I have spoken with in Davos, the costs to provide police security for the WEF rose exponentially over the years. It was initially a million dollars, then two million, then five, then seven; and in 2001, reached an astounding $11.5 million. After substantial riots and damage in the Village of Davos in January 2000, the Village of Davos was able to negotiate an 80/20 split with the Federal Government of Switzerland, which means the local taxpayers picked up about $3 million for the WEF security costs in January 2001. In January of 2001, Davos was shut down like a concentration camp with the roads blocked from the north, south and east with extremely tight security, razor wire, riot police, you name it. Business volumes in Davos, high season in all winter sports areas being the last week of January and the first week of February, fell to unprecedented levels. A local councillor claims that it is "only five days" but actually because it starts on a Thursday and ends on a Monday, the WEF disrupts two full weeks of bookings for hotels, the lift companies, shops, restaurants etc. due to the necessity of gearing up for the event several days in advance and then giving the VIPs a couple of days to get out of town.