Nobel's austerity-hit banquet still a lavish affair

Mon Dec 10, 2012 5:26pm EST
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By Alistair Scrutton

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden held its annual Nobel awards ceremony on Monday attended by laureates, royals and the Who's Who of Swedish society with little evidence of the cost-cutting forced upon it by a downturn in the global economy.

More than 1,200 glittering guests - women in elegant gowns and men in white tie and tails - gingerly made their way over slippery snow and ice to the Nobel dinner in Stockholm City Hall to dine, chat and hear Nobel literature winner Mo Yan and other laureates speak at Sweden's most prestigious social event.

Mo did his best to again steer clear of human rights issues after refusing last week to publicly back a petition by fellow laureates to free jailed compatriot and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

"I am well aware that literature only has a minimal influence on political disputes or economic crises in the world," Mo said in a translated speech that was prepared in advance and distributed to guests at the banquet.

Although organizers talked of unspecified reductions in the expenditure on a night which cost 20 million Swedish crowns ($3 million) last year, frugality was not a feature that stood out among the fine French wines, cuisine from top Swedish chefs and the trapeze artists who entertained diners between courses.

"There have been some cuts," Nobel Foundation Executive Director Lars Heikensten told reporters ahead of the banquet, but refusing to give any details. "You will not notice them."


For more than a century, the foundation has managed the roughly $450 million capital that forms the base for the awards, donated in the will of dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel. But in recent years returns have suffered amid the global crisis.   Continued...

Guests gather near a bust of dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel in the Stockholm Concert Hall prior to the Nobel prize award ceremony in Stockholm December 10, 2012. REUTERS/Henrik Montgomery/Scanpix