Inside the World Economic Forum

February 6, 2002, 12:00 AM EST

Even in New York--probably the special event capital of the world--this is big: The World Economic Forum is coming to town. Also known simply as “Davos” after the Swiss resort town where the annual meeting has been held for the past 31 years, the big conference is taking over the Waldorf=Astoria (and much of Midtown) from January 31 to February 4 for an exclusive meeting, which will welcome approximately 3,000 foreign dignitaries, politicians, international business leaders, cultural figures, celebrities and academics. Here's our behind-the-scenes report on the conference and its effects on the special event industry:

Inside the World Economic Forum's Big Party

First we brought you a preview of the conference's official Saturday night gala; now here's what it actually looked like inside: Check our coverage of the party.

Posted 02.06.02

Background Checks and Bomb-Sniffing Dogs at Dinner

The World Economic Forum is possibly the most high-profile of high-profile events the city has hosted, and with that comes a great deal of responsibility. According to The New York Times, the Waldorf X-rayed every single ounce of food that would make its way to into the meals of forum-goers. All of the 21 Club's employees underwent background checks before Steve Forbes' “Friday Nightcap” could go on. And Merrill Lynch's fete at the New York Public Library required background checks on everyone from Sonnier & Castle's catering staff, the party rental company and even the person who delivered the ice. The Secret Service swept the library for explosives residue, and bomb-sniffing dogs sniffed their ways through the stacks and event spaces before the cocktail party for 400 and the dinner for 100 could begin. --S.I.

Posted 02.05.02

Davos and the Super Bowl

Even world leaders watch sports: After the fourth day of seminars at the Waldorf, many Davos attendees headed to the Four Seasons for McKinsey & Company's Super Bowl party, according to The New York Times. (A competing party hosted by Goldman Sachs was held at the Rainbow Room.) Among Four Seasons attendees were ex-prez Bill Clinton, ex-senator Bill Bradley, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, director Michael Mann and Oxygen Media CEO Geraldine Laybourne. But Monday at the Four Seasons was Davos-free: The landmark restaurant hosted a Cosmopolitan magazine lunch for Britney Spears. --S.I.

Posted 02.05.02

The Wedding That Forced Davos Out of the Waldorf

If it weren't for Elizabeth Friedland and Mark Meyer, Davos attendees might not have left Midtown at all. The New York Times reports that Friedland and Meyer scheduled their wedding for Saturday, February 2 before the World Economic Forum was moved to the Waldorf, and the bride and groom refused to reschedule their wedding and move more than 500 guests. So the World Economic Forum's big official gala took place all the way downtown at the New York Stock Exchange instead of the Waldorf's Grand Ballroom. Friedland and Meyer's wedding reception featured a wedding cake designed by Sylvia Weinstock and security checks at the door. --S.I.

Posted 02.05.02

Leaders' Dinner in Times Square

On Friday, consulting company KPMG hosted the World Economic Forum Executive Leaders Dinner for 110 people at the Times Square Studios. The dinner was catered by Great Performances, and featured entertainment by Bernadette Peters. --S.I.

Posted 02.05.02

The First Look Inside the Forum

The Waldorf is known for its grand, fussy, art deco look, but the World Economic Forum is giving it a more modern flavor with lots of simple, stark signage. We got a sneak peak at the set-up on Wednesday night, as the jet set guests were checking in and an army of security guards, police officers and Waldorf employees swarmed throughout the hotel. (We saw more employees than guests.)

The high-powered event has decked out the art deco space with lots of large white signs with simple blue lettering. Banners hang throughout the lobbies and halls, showing the forum's logo and offering directions to the hotel's labyrinth of meeting rooms and lounges.

The event has also put computer terminals where attendees can check email in the halls, and a lounge in the main lobby sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers has more blue and white signage, and laptop terminals festooned with flat tanks filled with bubbling water.

The funky registration area demonstrates that not all conferences and trade shows need to have the same boring, boxy check-in areas. The forum's long counter is topped with large cones labeled with different letters of the alphabet to show the event's high-powered attendees where to find their registration info. Which brings to mind: We assume Bono's package is filed under “B,” but will the U2 frontman wait in line for his own “Bono” badge? --C.K.

Posted 01.31.02

BiZBash Exclusive: Preview of the Forum's Big Gala

Security will be extraordinarily tight for the official Saturday night gala for attendees of the World Economic Forum, but we still got a special sneak peak at what all the big V.I.P.s will see when they get to the New York Stock Exchange this weekend. (Even New York Times gal-about-town Alex Kuczynski didn't give you these details in her Sunday Styles conference party roundup.)

We hear the event will incorporate the forum's international scope--with decor and entertainment inspired by different continents--as well as design elements that incorporate a nod to the conference's move to New York. First, guests will enter a tent (from Ace Rental) on Broad Street, which Michael Owen Design will decorate to look like a New York subway station. Registration kiosks will look like subway booths, and guests will get a program guide designed with colors and symbols of the subway system. (You can bet conference attendees--who include Kofi Annan, Bill Gates, Rem Koolhaas and Alec Baldwin--won't be riding the rails themselves, so this will give them an idea of the life of a straphanger.)

To navigate the rooms of the Exchange, guests will follow colored tubes festooned above their heads that coordinate with the program and themes of the rooms. For example, a red tube designated as the 3 line will lead to the Africa-inspired room, where guests will be entertained by Grammy winner Ladysmith Black Mambazo and The Lion King's Tsidii Le Loka. A New York-themed room will feature oldies music from Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge and Gary U.S. Bonds.

Behind the scenes, Ryan Fable Productions is managing the event; Tentation is providing the catering and staffing; rentals will come from Broadway Famous; Maps Inc. is handling the staging and production; National Flag & Display Company is doing the signage; and Coat Check Inc. will watch over the belongings of guests like Steve Forbes and Bono. --C.K.

Posted 01.30.02

Magazine Awards Get Caught in Security Crunch

The World Economic Forum's intense security is affecting other events, too. The Magazine Publishers of America is holding its annual Henry Johnson Fisher awards at the Waldorf this evening, just as the majority of the exclusive conference's attendees will be arriving at the hotel. So the publishing group sent attendees an email this week offering some sage advice: “You may experience delays and should allow yourself more time than usual to arrive at the Waldorf=Astoria in time for the 6:30 PM reception.”

The email also included a two-page .pdf file showing traffic restrictions and giving the following warning: “You will be required to show valid picture identification. Your bags will be subject to search or magnetometer and you may be checked with a metal detector.”

We'll see how much the magazine folks complain about the delays...and whether they crane their necks to get a glimpse of Bono and Bill Gates checking in. --C.K.

Posted 01.30.02

Hotels Are Seeing Green

In the middle of one of the toughest winters in a decade for New York's hospitality industry, the World Economic Forum is certainly helping. Midtown hotels like the Metropolitan and the New York Palace are getting the Waldorf's overflow, according to Crain's New York, and nearby restaurants, especially those in the locked down area stretching down Lexington from East 47th to East 57th, will also reap the rewards of their proximity to the conference headquarters. Another beneficiary: AOL Time Warner and JP Morgan Chase hired Great Performances to cater an event for 60 at the brand new Asia Society. --S.I.

Posted 01.30.02

The Forum's Big Side Parties

While the Waldorf buzzes with all things Davos, what about the surrounding venues? The New York Times reported that during the five-day conference, the city will also host private parties ranging from the big official fete at the New York Stock Exchange on Saturday, to the even more exclusive “Friday Nightcap” hosted by Steve and Robert Forbes at the 21 Club. Le Cirque 2000 is “booked solid” during the forum, German media exec Hubert Burda will host a reception at Brasserie on Wednesday, and consulting firm McKinsey & company will host a Super Bowl party at the Four Seasons. --S.I.

Posted 01.30.02

NYPD Preps for Davos

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told that his security plan, dubbed “Operation Decorum at the Forum,” will incorporate “the FBI, Secret Service, New York's Office of Emergency Management crisis team, State Department agents and hundreds of private security people.” Along with the 3,000 attendees at the forum, the article reported that protest organizers predicted approximately 20,000 demonstrators will show up. Kelly pointed out that the NYPD is much better equipped to deal with protesters than Seattle, which saw millions of dollars in property damage and hundreds of arrests when the city hosted the World Trade Organization meeting in 1999. Seattle's police force of 1,100 was “just outnumbered,” according to Kelly, who commands a comparatively staggering 41,000 New York City police officers. --S.I.

Posted 01.30.02

More Security News

Brooklyn-based 21st Century Security will be providing security to several of the hotels surrounding the Waldorf during the World Economic Forum. President Anthony Poveromo told us they will securing the New York Marriott East Side, the W New York on Lexington (right across from the Waldorf) and a few other hotels on the West Side. --S.I.

Posted 01.30.02

Forum Will Pause for Prayer at Ground Zero

Among the numerous events outside the confines of the Waldorf=Astoria will be an international prayer service at ground zero, according to The New York Times. --S.I.

Posted 01.30.02

Daniel at Davos

Among the heads of state, leaders of industry, celebrities, politicians and other bigwigs at the World Economic Forum will be Daniel Boulud, the man The New York Times called “perhaps the reigning prince of the New York gastronomical scene.” Boulud will host “Tell Me What You Eat...,” a panel that explores “the clues that food offers about culture and national identity.” --S.I.

Posted 01.30.02

World Economic Forum's Big Party at NYSE

When the World Economic Forum rolls into town at the end of the month, it will bring loads of big businesspeople from around the world. Moved from Davos, Switzerland, for the first time, the event will take over the from January 31 to February 4, and no doubt spark lots of side parties. But the biggest bash will be the meeting's official gala at the New York Stock Exchange on Saturday, February 2, which will combine a New York-related theme in the decor, as well as lots of international entertainment. The team: Ryan Fable Productions is producing the gala, with Tentation doing the catering. --C.K.

Posted 01.23.02

World Economic Forum Moves Big Meeting

For the first time in the World Economic Forum's 31-year history, the organization will be swapping the fresh air and pristine mountains of Davos, Switzerland, for the bustle and bright lights of New York for its 2002 annual meeting. Forum president Klaus Schwab said in a press release announcing the move today, “In these extraordinary times, greater international cooperation is needed to reverse the global economic downturn, eradicate poverty, promote security and enhance cultural understanding. These will be the principal concerns of the 2002 Meeting...As the world's financial capital and the site of the recent terrorist attacks, there could be no better place than New York City to confront these issues.” The meeting is scheduled to take place from January 31 to February 4. --S.I.

Posted 11.07.01

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