Financial meltdown, recession, Iraq, global warming? The air is indeed thick with all kinds of dark forebodings at Davos, Switzerland.
That's perhaps why some olfactory tinkering has been attempted. Yes, the organizers have pressed into service perfumers who are making the air that much more pleasant to breathe in.
AdvertisementEight fragrance dispensers have been installed throughout the conference center and they squirt tiny whiffs of specially blended aromas into the thin mountain air being inhaled by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and many others.
The Swiss chemist, who has also created fragrances for big names including Estee Lauder, Ralph Lauren and Thierry Mugler, says the smells have been fine-tuned to match individual events.
So as Condoleezza Rice addresses the main session, promoting her Middle East peace drive, heady wafts of a vapor titled "Six Continents" were set to drift across the room.
"'Six Continents' fits perfectly with this year's World Economic Forum theme of collaboration," says Christophe Laudamiel, a New York scientist who is behind the massive scenting effort along with Berlin-based Christophe Hornetz,
"The fragrance contains facets that represent each continent. It's very appropriate for a scent to do this since in perfumery we have always had a collaborative culture, taking ingredients from China, Yemen and all corners of the world."
In the conference center's smaller Aspen Room, another of Laudamiel's shoebox-sized dispensers will deploy carefully calculated squirts of a "cooler" scent, appropriately selected to compliment discussion on our endangered polar regions.
"Here the topic is the shrinking Arctic ice cap. The atmosphere we're trying to create is a glacier, so all the scents are blue --- you can create colors from fragrances."
For another room where delegates will kick back in comfy chairs, Laudamiel has blended a soothing scent based on organic lavender oil from the French region of Provence.
Some delegates were left nonplussed by the fragrances.
"To be honest, it's so cold outside, most people's sinuses will be completely blocked up and they won't smell anything," said one.
Laudamiel, 38, was approached to by the World Economic Forum to develop a new world odor after presenting a seminar on scents at last year's event. As head of a team of experimental perfumers he has a nose for the unusual, reports CNN.
Both he and Hornetz previously worked on creating a "smell-track" for the 2006 film of Patrick Suskind's bestselling novel "Perfume" that was released in selected cinemas.
Though he believes only 50 percent of Davos attendees will notice the smells, all will benefit.
"The 50 percent who do not notice they are still going to feel better than in previous years, and they will not know why ... but they will put it down to something else."
However -- in the event the conference fulfills its ambitious goal of making the world a better place -- Laudamiel says it probably won't be down to his odours.
"I wouldn't go that far... unless someone else says that. But smell is the best thing to put people in a positive mood."