(Adds colour and details from banquet)
By Alistair Scrutton
STOCKHOLM Dec 10 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
"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 organisers 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.
"We are in this forever and we should safeguard it (the
prize)," said Heikensten, a former Swedish central bank chief
known for reducing staff during his tenure.
The awards are now worth $1.2 million each, down from around
$1.5 million in recent years.
Still, Monday evening's festivities at Stockholm's City Hall
- itself decorated with 11 kg of gold leaf - were never likely
to be spartan.
Details of a menu, which included Joseph Perrier Cuvée
Royale Champagne and pheasant with chanterelle mushrooms, were
only revealed minutes before the food was served. Guests at the
event touted as one of the world's biggest set dinners ate from
some 7,000 pieces of porcelain using 10,000 items of silverware
and drank from 5,400 glasses.
There was also a fair share of bling on show, from jewel
encrusted handbags to glittering tiaras, as Sweden's small and
influential political and business elite jettisoned its famed
egalitarian image to hobnob with diplomats and political leaders
from around the globe.
The strict dress code - white tie and tails for men and
gowns for women - was complemented by a similarly strict code of
Toasting, for example, is done Swedish style: raise your
glass, look your table companions in the eyes, swing the glass
in the air ever so slightly - no clinking - sip and repeat eye
contact before setting the glass down.
However, the formal setting did not dissuade guests from
having an after-dinner boogie on the dancefloor to the music of
Swedish pop group ABBA and other hits played by a live band.
Neighbouring Norway was expected to have Australian
pop-princess Kylie Minogue perform as the European Union
receives this year's Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo on
The EU's win raised a few eyebrows when announced in
($1 = 6.6344 Swedish crowns)
(Editing by Paul Casciato)