The world's political and business elite kicked off their annual Davos meeting on Wednesday in a spirit of guarded optimism that the worst of the financial crisis might finally be over.
Over the next four days, around 45 world leaders will rub shoulders with some 2,500 lobbyists, journalists, captains of industry and economists in the picture-postcard Swiss ski resort for the World Economic Forum.
Among the 260 sessions sare presentations on climate change, religion, science, media and health, including a dinner exploring possible cures for cancer and a session on "the past and future of the universe" by the head of top particle physics laboratory CERN.
While the 2012 meeting was dominated by the euro crisis and fears Greece could be forced out of the eurozone, this year's gathering appeared to be marked by a feeling the global economy may have turned the corner.
At the opening panel of the meeting, the deputy head of the International Monetary Fund, Min Zhu, drew a contrast between today's mood and that of last year's forum.
The World Economic Forum is taking place in the Swiss town of Davos Jan. 23-27.
"At this particular moment, things are much better than 12 months ago. A year ago here, we were really concerned about the euro crisis, the US fiscal cliff," said Zhu. "With all the policy actions, much has calmed down now but we've got to be very careful."
JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said he felt the banking industry was beginning to turn the page on its difficult recent history.
"I think the industry has to come back from the past. I think a lot of companies are doing fine. Banks continue to expand and lend," he said.
Nonetheless, officials and bankers warned that volatility could easily re-erupt, especially if regulators failed to learn the lessons of the past financial crisis.
"If we do everything right, we will get out of this. If we don't, this could last another 10 years," said Dimon, one of the world's top bankers.
In a survey released by financial services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, chief executives said they were marginally less gloomy about the global economy.
Among the leaders set to address the forum are German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti. Britain's David Cameron will speak on Thursday, fresh from committing Britain to a referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017 if his party wins another term.
Medvedev will be the first major figure to speak, making an address around noon on Wednesday on Russia's economic outlook.
Other top speakers are European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, who will speak on "challenges for the years to come", and the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde.
Every year events conspire to hijack the agenda and this year is no different, with the conflict in Mali and the crisis in Syria poised to exercise the minds of the global elite.
Jordan's King Abdullah II was due to make a special address and the premiers of Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia and the Palestinian Territories were scheduled to attend, as well as Israeli President Shimon Peres.
There is also a heavy African presence, with the leaders of South Africa and Nigeria attending a session on "de-risking" the continent.
Beside the leaders, more than 900 top business executives will attend, with this year's forum co-chaired by the CEOs of Coca-Cola, Embraer, UBS, Dow Chemical and the head of anti-graft watchdog Transparency International.
Organizers have chosen the theme "resilient dynamism", reflecting the need for an improvement in the structure of the global economy to resist sudden emergencies like the eurozone debt crisis.
Despite the presence of so many world leaders, no formal decisions are taken at Davos, although corporate deals are often sewn up on the sidelines and presidents and prime ministers huddle in small gatherings to thrash out pressing issues.
The invitation-only meeting is also known for its informal luncheons and lavish cocktail parties, often hosted by corporate sponsors and with exclusive guest lists, where political and business leaders can rub shoulders and mingle.
MORE ON WEATHER.COM: Sandy's Epic Devastation
Long Beach, N.J.
The Associated Press
In this aerial photograph, heavy equipment pushes sand to restore a barrier dune along the Atlantic Ocean on Long Beach Island, N.J., Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, after the region was pounded by Superstorm Sandy the previous week.