Simon Hobbs

22.01.04

Well in to our outside broadcast coverage of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and it’s finally stopped snowing. This is one of the most important international summits in the calendar.

Grumpy in Gortex boots, thermals and Armani suit, I’m halfway through my 36 interviews and 15 reports for CNBC Europe which I’ll have conducted by the end of our stay. An additional 18 CEO guests are being plugged in for our London interview.

Yesterday we had 50cm of snow and engineers had to dig a path to the satellite van, which is set up on the slopes nearby giving a great camera shot of the Alps. I track down our field producer, Helen Alexander. My pigeon French seems to be working well – except with the Swiss-German running the petrol station who pretends not to understand.

CEOs of Unilever, BP, Lloyds, Sony, Visa, Harvard and UBS on our guest list, following on from Oracle, Cisco, SAB Miller, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Zurich Financial yesterday, all keen to put their views across.

Bill Clinton has been here hosting a lunch, but I was on air. The general consensus seems to be that big business is “cautiously optimistic”.

Sun comes out. Mountains above us are breathtaking. But we lose the President of Poland. Finally the French CEO of giant caterer Sodexo, who resembles a tiny Peter Ustinov, struggles manfully with his English.

We’re finally off air but I’m hosting a dinner for CEOs from the defence and tourism industries. Having trudged for 45 minutes through the snow, I just make it on time. I’m facilitating a conversation on “why the media isn’t more responsible”. Some of the other attending media are as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike in defending our industry. But I successfully turn it round. Finish 10pm sharp.

Return to digs. More than 50 TV channels and I end-up watching a Spanish documentary on Buddhist monks. All is lost.

23.01.04

I wake before my 5.20am alarm. My newly acquired thermals are too small and won’t stay up, but no one is noticing.

Davos is beautiful. However, as a primary terror target it is surrounded by 6,000 Swiss soldiers and many armed road blocks are set up.

No light or heat in the media centre and the temperature is minus 15 by the time I go on air at 7am.

Nagging eventually ensures that power is restored and the adrenaline feels good as Helen’s stream of CEOs and politicians begins. Goldman Sachs, Orange, KPMG, Manpower, 3i and TNT Express.

Lots of tension from PRs when CEOs of drug giants Pfizer and Novartis meet. The European CEO of Microsoft is driven across the snow to our van. His PR invites me to drinks party at 10pm with Bill Gates. But there’s also a strong rumour Hugh Heffner’s daughter is hosting a Playboy party.

The CEO of WPP is as brilliant as ever. Why doesn’t the BBC employ Sir Martin Sorrell to replace Kirsty Wark? Then, completely surrounded by armed bodyguards, the Deputy Prime Minister of Qatar admits the Gulf is less stable as a result of the war in Iraq launched from his country.

Feel sorry for the reporter who enters our office to ask which delegates he might get for interview.

Then, in an Apocalypse Now moment, army helicopters rise in unison around the complex and hang in the air. US Vice-President Dick Cheney is arriving. But our mission to transmit from WEF 2004 is over. And it’s time for a celebratory fondue with the team and then stagger to bed at 4.30am.

24.01.04

Alarm at 8am doesn’t wake me. Helen’s knock on the door at 8.30 does. We should have left for Zurich by now.

We exit Davos at 9am. Helen is worried we’ll miss the plane. We pass more troops braced for today’s anticapitalist protests – they now have tanks. Get to the airport just in time.

As I hand the car back I notice that in the boot there are snow chains that we could have used on the roads.

Board our flight to London – armed with chocolates for my team… and a bottle of Ballentines for me. As the engines kick in for take-off I’m pushed back in my seat and wonder if so much hard work over three days is worth it. Our coverage has been the best of any broadcaster, according to London HQ.

26.01.04

Two nights and 24 hours of sleep and I’m feeling pretty good for a Monday. Arrive two hours early to interview the CEO of spirit-maker Diageo for my evening show. But standing on the Swiss Alps for three days has taken its toll and my voice is about to go. CNBC Europe management seems ecstatic with our efforts.

Many of our exclusives were pickedup by the wire services. So, surprisingly, they usher me straight home.

27.01.04

Noon planning meeting for my early evening show, European Closing Bell, which I host with Kavita Maharaj. Looks like it’s going to be dominated by the vote on university top-up fees in the House of Commons tonight.

More lighthearted meeting with our stylist about my new season’s onair wardrobe from Giorgio Armani.

My workout regime is causing havoc for the designers as all my suits are too small. But banter about shirt and tie combos provide a break in the day.

We take the Commons vote “live” from Westminster at 7pm with Mark Champion, The Wall Street Journal’s Westminster reporter. But the delay means I have to fill in with commentary on the history of the Commons and the voting procedure for the benefit of our European viewers. When the vote finally came, the PM found himself with a victory – of sorts.

28.01.04

A day off in the week – pretty rare.

Gym with my excellent personal trainer. Back at flat for Radio 4’s World at One. Nick Clarke is a demi-god. But it’s Hutton Day and I become totally transfixed. Switch to BBC TV, which is pulling-out all the stops. Abandon all planned chores and just sit. End up eight hours later watching Alastair Campbell take on Paxman.

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