60 Minutes: Behind the Scenes at Davos

Scott Pelley Gets A Rare Inside Look At The World Economic Forum

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It's hard to tell which way the economy is heading: unemployment eased a bit but now the Dow is off several hundred points. If you'd like to meet the people who are supposed to repair the state of the world or give a piece of your mind to the bankers who helped get us into the mess, we can tell you where to find a lot of them, all in one place.

It's a tiny town folded into the Swiss Alps called Davos, a village where you could bump into Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, the head of Google and the queen of Jordan waiting in line in a coffee shop.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of what may be the most important meeting on Earth, the World Economic Forum. A lot of reporters cover the forum but few get inside.

Last month, "60 Minutes" and correspondent Scott Pelley were given the kind of access that is usually reserved for kings and captains of industry.

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The world economy is traveling a dark and troubled stretch. But if there's light at the end of the tunnel, you might see it first in Davos. It is the scene of the world's summit meeting, five days, each January, when 2,500 capitalists, globalists, and futurists discuss the fate of Earth's other seven billion inhabitants.

Within minutes you'll run into billionaire financier George Soros, Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, computer tycoon Michael Dell and Her Majesty Queen Rania al-Abdullah of Jordan.

"I was down in the lobby of the hotel last night and I noticed that you were talking to President Clinton and while you two were talking, Bill Gates walked by. I mean it's that kind of place," Pelley remarked to Queen Rania.

"Well, it is and I find that a lot of work gets done in corridors, in the lobbies of the hotels and in the elevators. You just bump into people; we're all stuck together in this place and a lot can get done when you see people from all walks of life," the queen replied.

Asked why it is important, she replied, "Because you have a high concentration of some of the best minds in business, technology, politics, all together in one destination, far away from everything else."

At 5,000 feet, Davos is Europe's highest town and arguably its best ski resort. But the 800-year-old village has only 13,000 residents, one road in and out, and no airport. It's a tight fit as skiers make way for the high security capital of capitalism.

"What is this your Super Bowl?" Pelley asked Martin Wolf, a columnist for the Financial Times of London.

"Yes, yes absolutely, it's the place where everybody that I ever want to meet in over a whole year is gathered together," he replied.

Wolf delights in watching the high and mighty squeezed into Davos.

"There aren't enough tables in restaurants, there aren't enough hotel rooms," Pelley remarked.

"Oh, that's part of the thrill. It is the only place where these really powerful people are made to be very inconvenienced, just about the only place in the world that really rich, really powerful men, mostly men, a few women, can actually behave like normal people," Wolf replied.

"We were here a few days before the forum started and it looked like they were setting up for a rock concert. What goes into this?" Pelley asked.

"Just the program, all the lunches and dinners and hotels, travel programs, security, which is obviously a nightmare. I mean they brought together everyone in the world that the terrorists would want to kill. It is an enormous organizational project," Wolf explained.

They suffer the indignities to attend the seminars of the World Economic Forum -
more than 150 expert talks - on things including financial risk regulation, viruses, U.S.-China relations, and the global economic outlook, plus, rural poverty and life on other planets. At the last minute the forum this year pushed the world's greatest disaster, the Haiti earthquake, to the top of the list.