Ten things you didn't know about Davos
- 12 January 2015
- From the section Business
The World Economic Forum has been going strong for more than 40 years now - but here are 10 things you probably didn't know about the event.
1. Time management: It takes a lot for modern chief executives to clear a full five days in their diaries; some stay just a day or two. However, the very first "Davos" was held in less hurried times and lasted a full two weeks.
2. What's in a name: 2014 sees the 44th annual Davos jamboree, but the name World Economic Forum is much younger. The first event was the European Management Symposium, and until 1987 it was called the European Management Forum.
3. Wrong number: Forum founder Klaus Schwab may be the only person to have hung up the phone on a French president. In the 1970s he asked his secretary to call "Mr Giscard d'Estaing". He wanted to talk to Olivier Giscard d'Estaing, the man in charge of Insead business school. Instead the call was made to the Elysee palace, and Schwab was put straight through to Valery Giscard d'Estaing. Hearing the president's distinctive voice, Mr Schwab panicked and put down the phone.
4. China rising: China has always been a big topic for the forum, and the first Chinese delegation came to Davos as early as 1979, just at the dawn of China's economic reforms.
5. The conductor: Former UK Prime Minister Edward Heath made an appearance at the forum as a conductor, taking charge of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra at a charity concert in 1979 - although his main job that year was to act as the forum's chairman.
6. Let's hear it for socialism: Many consider the forum as the high church of capitalism, but its members have always been keen to hear controversial views. In 1983 British trade union leader Arthur Scargill came to Davos - predicting the imminent collapse of capitalism and calling for the establishment of a "socialist system".
7. The ideas: Davos discussions are always full of ideas, and some come to fruition. The Northern American Free Trade Agreement - linking the United States, Canada and Mexico - was first proposed at an informal meeting for political leaders in Davos.
8. Make peace, not war: Former Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Ozal claims that Davos stopped his country going to war with Greece. When tensions between the two countries escalated in 1987, they did not result in armed conflict because he had met his Greek counterpart Andreas Papandreou the year before in Davos and knew he could trust him.
9. Celebrities: Davos has always had its sprinkling of celebrities, but Hollywood and rock stars like Matt Damon, Goldie Hawn and Bono have been a fairly recent addition. One of the early celebrity stars at Davos was the violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin.
10. The most powerful man on earth: Ronald Reagan joined the Davos crowd several times - but only via video link. The first sitting US president to appear in Davos was Bill Clinton in 2000, at the forum's 30th anniversary session. He's been a regular attendee in most years since. President George Bush - father and son - never came to the village in the Swiss mountains, and President Barack Obama is a Davos no-show as well.