Let the games begin - Issue 144 - Magazine | Monocle

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Are you ready to get on board yet? It’s a question that’s come up again and again while putting this transport-themed issue together as we have spoken to aviation geeks, railway players and the ambitious urban planners who are keen to get everyone walking and cycling. But the same question has also played out in numerous other conversations in recent weeks because, even though much of the developed world seems set to move on from the pandemic, you sense a nagging hesitation in the air.

It seems as though some people are not quite sure whether they want to get back to work, see their friends or even go on holiday. Leaving the past 18 months behind is not going to be as simple as you might imagine – lockdowns have dented people’s ambitions and made them unsure of how to move ahead (surely there’s a limit to how many rainbow cakes you can spend your afternoons baking?). And it’s not just individuals. It feels as though entire nations have lost their nerve. People really are not sure they are on board with the programme after all.


Here’s a good example: the Tokyo Olympics. Delayed from 2020, the Games are scheduled to start on 23 July but in a format that will bar international spectators – perhaps Japanese spectators too. Yet even this stripped-back Games is struggling to gain public support in Japan and, as monocle goes to press, there are many in the country who remain convinced that the event will be cancelled again. I hope it goes ahead.

These leaner Games, with rigorous testing in place, could be a moment that brings people together and sees us cheering on other nations instead of debating the merits or failings of their health services and vaccination programmes. It could be a time when we focus on people who have trained for years for a few fleeting moments that will determine whether they get to stand on the podium with a medal as the winner’s national anthem plays. And it could be a first step towards reconnecting our world, getting international travel back.

Some months ago when we first talked to our colleagues in Tokyo about pulling together an Expo looking at the people behind the Games, you could tell that even they were unsure whether this was wise. It seemed to go against the mood in the city but as Fiona and Jun started meeting the makers of the Olympic torches, of the mattresses that will allow fatigued athletes to get a good night’s kip, the wheelchairs that will be used by many of the leading Paralympians and the architects who have created the stadiums, they began to see that many Japanese people actually want the Olympics to happen and have been working away with unswerving commitment. These are the engineers and designers who understand that someone is going to have to be a little brave. And let’s also remember that the athletes attending know about risk – the odd javelin in the toe, volleyball in the face.

Elsewhere, this message has already hit home. Venice is pushing ahead with its Architecture Biennale, Milan has said that it will host Salone del Mobile, its celebrated furniture fair, and London is going to host the Frieze art fair. Yes, these events will not be at the same pace or size as in previous years but as Europe’s vaccination programmes push ahead, they have decided that it’s time to bring people back together again.

And we want to do this too. First we will be hosting a series of events to celebrate the launch of The Monocle Book of Homes, including here at Midori House (come and see us – tickets are available at monocle.com/events). We are also planning a return of The Chiefs Conference  in the Alps and summer markets too. It’s not quite the Olympics but it’s the taking part in your city’s life that matters. If you need any more information, have a clever idea or just want to say hello, you can email me at at@monocle.com. 

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