By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press
DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — What's the hot gossip on the party circuit at Davos this year? No big Google bash.
For the past few years, the hottest invitation at the World Economic Forum was the Google party, where hundreds of the world's VIPs, especially the successful young technology entrepreneurs, would be out on the dance floor in droves, or trying to chat on the sidelines while shouting to be heard over the loud music.
The Davos veterans, often standing by the bar and looking at the scene, would agree they were probably looking at the men and women who will be running the world in the next 20 years or so.
Not this year.
Google spokeswoman Niki Fenwick confirmed the giant California-based Internet and technology company isn't throwing a Davos party this year, but she wouldn't say why.
The forum's founder, Klaus Schwab, said it is a sign of the times.
"I think the world is in a very serious situation and the annual meeting is a very serious event. We are not a fun event. We want to improve the state of the world. The world is not in a good shape at the moment," he told The Associated Press. "So I think it's really logical that we concentrate much more on substance."
The forum also changed its format this year, canceling the Sunday session and eliminating its splashy Saturday evening soiree featuring several bands, open bars and lots of food. It was thrown in past years by a host of countries, including India, Brazil and South Africa.
Instead, the forum will wrap up with a mountain-top reception early Saturday evening for the 2,500 top leaders from government, business and those who come to Davos to make connections and lobby the movers and shakers.
There have been a few private receptions and dinners featuring monarchs, presidents, prime ministers and celebrities, but nothing wild and glitzy to put on the dancing shoes for — unless you fancy a Russian party Friday night featuring one of the country's top punk bands called Leningrad.
Microsoft held a reception Thursday night in a large room showcasing the company's latest technological innovations. Bill Gates was there, but it was no replacement for the Google bash. Potential crashers were barred, the crowd was relatively small, and there was background music only.
Davos did live up to its reputation for attracting celebrities.
Actress Charlize Theron, a U.N. messenger of peace and founder of an African outreach foundation, accepted an award for her humanitarian work at the forum's opening session Tuesday, and she starred at an invitation-only reception Wednesday hosted by Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent to support the fight to defeat AIDS.
Not to be outdone, rival PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi hosted an invitation-only nightcap later that night for Derek Jeter, the captain of the New York Yankees, who was surrounded by baseball fans, many seeking autographs.
There also were dozens of private events where U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — among many others — were VIP guests. Tina Brown was among the VIP hostesses.
Top government officials from Mongolia, Malaysia, India, Japan and South Korea, combined cocktails and cultural performances.
Pakistani cricket legend-turned-politician Imran Khan headlined a lunch and made headlines when he said he was very confident his party will sweep his country's upcoming elections.
Though champagne corks popped, the age of austerity definitely replaced the hedonism which had given Davos its work-hard, play-hard reputation.
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