Bilderberg 2010: Don't call it a pow-wow!

So far at Bilderberg 2010, Charlie Skelton has clocked Queen Beatrix and Henry Kissinger. Not bad considering the Spanish police's €10m anti-media operation

A man under a hedge stretches, blinks, curses the pointy pebble under his hip, and down goes his finger on the shutter.


Robert Zoellick, head of the World Bank, a former managing director of Goldman Sachs.


Paul Volcker, former chairman of the US federal reserve, current chairman of Obama's economic recovery advisory board.


Josef Ackermann, chairman of Deutsche Bank.


Peter Voser, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell.


Dr Henry Alfred Kissinger.

The photos we've seen from this year's conference, which we're showcasing in our big hitters Bilderberg Power Gallery , have been very revealing. You can see from the body language who runs Bilderberg. There's been a lot of power sloshing round the Dolce Sitges Hotel this past week, a lot of wealth, a lot of influence, but you can sense the ▄berpower when it shows up.

We didn't see David Rockefeller this week (maybe his head is already sitting in a cryogenic hatbox somewhere, awaiting nanosuscitation). But we caught the other two big fish. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and Henry Kissinger. When they turn up the mood on the forecourt changes, heads turn, smiles beam, commands are whispered into shirt cuffs and ripples of subservience pass through the group.

My favourite photo from this year's conference is the top of Kissinger's head, glimpsed through a train of aides, organisers, delegates and security as he wafts (hobbles grimly) to his car. Pity the poor driver, who'd just had the gloved hand of a security goon check his bowel for explosives.

Two days ago I had breakfast with one of the Bilderberg chauffeurs, who was just about to clock on for an airport zoom. (He had no idea I was a journalist. Was I meant to tell him? Is that a rule? I bought him a coffee – that seems fair.) He was grumpy. He wasn't looking forward to being frisked up against his limo, which happens, apparently, if it's one of the bigger delegates. Worst was when he delivered "two important, very old American men, who travelled together" from the airport. (Does this mean Rockefeller made it after all?)

He tells me that a colleague got it so bad before chauffeuring Beatrix that he shouted at the security: "Don't kill me, I'm just a driver!"

He glanced up to the TV screen in our breakfast bar. "She was there, too. Esperanza Aguirre. Very important lady." He's referring to Do˝a Esperanza Aguirre y Gil de Biedma, Countess of Murillo, and President of Madrid. Not on the list of Bilderberg participants for this year. Wanted to stay under the radar. Failed.

My breakfast buddy leaned over his coffee and told me that he had a friend in the police force who'd said how much the security for this year's conference was costing. He drew disgustedly on his breakfast Marlboro. "Ten million euros." I realise this is third-hand breakfast natter, but wow. That's a lot of helicopter fuel. (Or is it?)

I should stress, the intense security here at Bilderberg has very little to do with any kind of physical "threat". It's to do with distance, power and an extraordinary (one might almost say "unhealthy") wariness of the press. In fact so poor is the relationship between press and Bilderberg that we decided this year to plug the gap and provide the conference with a rudimentary press liaison service. We turned bungalow 19 at the Garrofer Park campsite into the Press Office for Bilderberg 2010.

We handed out leaflets, delegate biogs, background information, we had a whiteboard for latest news, we even had a box of lanyards. We couldn't afford colour-coded ribbons, like they have up at the hotel, but then again we're not bankrolled by the Rockefellers. We're bankrolled by whatever I can reasonably invoice for these articles – which should just about cover the cost of some dry-wipe pens.

The press are represented inside Bilderberg (in our photos you'll see, for example, the CEO of the Washington Post and the editor-in-chief of the Economist) but they're not talking. What happens in Bilderberg stays in Bilderberg. Except for policy. That gets everywhere.

Just this weekend the former Nato secretary general, Willy Claes (Bilderberg 1994), said on Belgian radio that at Bilderberg each participant is given a report and they are "considered to use this report in setting their policies in the environments in which they affect". This remark is revealing of the Bilderberg dynamic: the flowing of policy out from Bilderberg and into the world, from power towards political implementation. From the steering committee to the guest members.

But never mind what the agenda of Bilderberg might be (and when one says "Bilderberg", one is really talking about its steering committee of 33 people). Never mind where you stand on the project for a united Europe. Or the usefulness of a global currency. Never mind what they're talking about. Never mind when the attack on Iran is scheduled. Simply understand that a very important, seriously managed conference has just taken place.

The Dolce Sitges has a separate conference centre, with a luxurious labyrinth of underground seminar rooms for side briefings: I skulked down there before the weekend, got a sense of the scale of things, used the executive facilities. This is an important and indisputable fact: Bilderberg is a conference, with a well-oiled conference team, a full timetable, a huge budget, and a set of softly lit, beautifully appointed underground lavatories. It is a big deal, a serious deal.

No one spends €10m policing a ping pong tournament. Not even Robert Zoellick. Of course, bear in mind €10m is small batatas compared with what Canada is about to spend on policing the G8/G20 circus later this month. A very uncool $1bn. (You read that correctly.) At least the press are invited. Lanyards for everyone!

And speaking of things being uncool, we're very pleased with our photograph of Nout Wellink, the president of the Dutch central bank. Now I'm not one to start throwing around advice about hairstyles, but really Nout. Get some product into it.

As you can see, the photohaul from Bilderberg 2010 has been remarkable, thanks in no small part to the intrepid Quierosaber, whose McNabbian determination and leafy lenswork provided so many of the images that are now zipping around the world. If you know someone who's never heard of Bilderberg, show them these photographs. And if you yourself don't know what "Bilderberg" is, start knowing. Start wondering.

And stop, once and for all, saying that it's a bunch of has-beens meeting up for cocktails and cribbage. You must really have to want Bilderberg not to be important if you chirp away that it's not important. Whistle hard enough with your hands over your ears and you won't hear the thunder.

Love it as he does, Robert Zoellick didn't come to Sitges for the table tennis. Stop perpetuating this idiotic untruth, stop with the lazy dismissals, the sneery, unfunny, tryhard cynicism that dismisses the conference as unimportant and anyone who says otherwise as a "loon". You're starting to sound stupid.

And speaking of sounding stupid, here's what Iain Hollingshead wrote about Bilderberg in the Daily Telegraph last week: "The reality of these conferences appears to boil down to a group of willy-waggling old men comparing their security details and dreaming of past glories." Does that describe Jyrki Catainen, Finland's 39-year-old finance minister? Or Microsoft's chief research officer, Craig Mundie? Or Bill Gates? Or the prime minister of Spain?

The premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell, is 62. Still a little young to be put out to grass, a little too spry to be waggling his willy at past glories, especially when you consider that a trip to Bilderberg often means a career leap is just round the corner. (David Cameron 2008, Tony Blair 1993, Bill Clinton 1991). Congratulations, Prime Minister Campbell!

Also, let's also keep an eye on Olaf Scholz (52, German SDP party), snapped in the background of our Craig Mundie shot. Looks like Scholz has just been beckoned up the golden ladder.

The photos here on the Guardian, or, and the dozens of TV reports, YouTube clips, blog posts, newspaper articles, radio interviews, tweets and Facebook statuses that have originated from Sitges this past week can finally lay to rest the bizarre fantasy (or brilliant PR strategy) that Bilderberg is an insignificant golfing weekend. Or at most, a "talking shop". Because calling Bilderberg a "talking shop" is like calling a war a "police action".

It's like calling Henry Kissinger the winner of the 1973 Nobel peace prize.

For me, one of the most rewarding moments of Bilderberg 2010 was when we tweaked the levels and Kissinger emerged ghoulishly from the shadows of our photos. Before Sitges we were so unsure that we'd see anyone captured on film (even a lowly transnational CEO, never mind Henry Kissinger) that we appointed the Bilderberg conference's first Official Artist: Andrew Maughan.

Here's Andrew's portrait of Bilderberg's Queen Beatrix, looking as if she's lost a little weight:

Of his portraits, Andrew writes: "The viewer's knowledge or lack of knowledge of the individual is important when it comes to piecing together the fragmented clues within the painting. The viewer is expected to have to invest their time, dig deeper in order to understand, but you will never fully know."

Andrew has been faithfully documenting Bilderberg 2010 in oils, and a gallery of his works will be put up in the coming days at the website of Trilever, the PR company we set up to handle the Bilderberg account, alongside links to all the photos, press releases, and news of next year's meeting (whenever that will emerge).

Until then, enjoy our gallery of Bilderberg bigwigs, check out the new faces we've added to our Spot The Delegate competition and stay tuned for my final report from Bilderberg 2010, in which I get publicly branded an MI6 agent. Don't go away! (6.09.2010, Charlie Skelton)

America the Beautiful

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