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Citizens count cost as summit swamps Davos

Davos's main street has been cut off by the security services Keystone

The inhabitants of the Swiss mountain resort of Davos publicly have few complaints about hosting the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Despite ever-tighter security, the locals simply grin and bear the upheaval – and just think of the money.

In the skies over Davos, helicopters constantly shuttle back and forth, carrying their precious loads of business and political leaders.

Others buzz over the resort and the surrounding area keeping a close on events on the ground.

But at ground level, amid the snowdrifts, it seems to be business as usual for Davos and its inhabitants, who are experiencing their 34th WEF summit.

High security

Security has once again been beefed up: hundreds of police, thousands of soldiers and miles of metal barriers have transformed the small town into an armed camp.

The locals seem to have taken the disturbances in their stride – at least in public. Last autumn 70 per cent of the town’s voters gave the go-ahead to the WEF meeting.

But when a resident is out in his or her car and a police officer is blocking the road, they usually head off in another direction, taking care to close the window before grumbling to themselves.

“The population is divided over the forum’s presence,” said one local. “But nobody wants to oppose it openly.”

In downtown Davos, people hint at what they really feel, giving half smiles and keeping their inner thoughts to themselves.

It all comes down to simple economics: everybody in this town, which makes its living from tourism, realises the benefits of hosting the WEF summit.

For the resort’s jewellers and watch sellers, it’s simply the best week of the year.

So the summit is “something good” for nearly everybody, even though they don’t always agree with its philosophy.

Off piste to skiers

Skiers tend to avoid the resort during the annual gathering when accommodation is at a premium.

“I sell a lot less equipment during this week,” the manager of a sports store told swissinfo. “And there are far fewer skiers on the slopes, but all in all it only last a couple of days.”

During the WEF meeting, skiers have to weave their way between the limousines carrying dignitaries to and from the congress centre and the no-go zones set up by the security services.

The centre is like a movie set, surrounded by spotlights. Security checkpoints outside the building keep unwanted visitors off the premises.

Further on, the two men standing guard outside the local police station seem relaxed. Their only concern is the possible arrival of anti-globalisation militants on Saturday.

While much of the anti-globalisation movement abandoned the idea of protesting in the resort, a number of small splinter groups have agreed to meet there.

The police say that everything is under control and that it’s business as usual in Davos, despite the potential threat of a demonstration and a few scares.

A suspicious bag found in a hotel was destroyed in a controlled explosion on Monday. And on Wednesday another establishment had to be partially evacuated so a suspected firebomb could be dealt with.

In the meantime the locals wait for the show to end, recalling that the winter ski season is far from over.

swissinfo, Pierre-François Besson in Davos

Police in Davos are authorised to stop and search anyone during the WEF summit.

The Graubünden cantonal government is responsible for overall security, while the Swiss authorities are responsible for the security of heads of state and ministers.

Hundreds of police and 6,500 soldiers have been mobilised for the event, as well as private security forces.

The airspace over Davos has been closed and fighter jets ensure that no aircraft enter the area.

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