Monday 15 August 2016 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 15/8/2016

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alexei Nikolsky/PA Images

Hat-trick for Russia?

The tops of news bulletins across the world have been filled with tales of Olympic joy: glorious golds, surprise silvers, battling bronzes and the occasional heroic defeat. But while most of us are engrossed in sporting action – and while many world leaders are on holiday – Russian president Vladimir Putin seems to have more important things on his mind. The country’s claims of Ukrainian “armed incursions” in Crimea – something Ukraine strenuously denies – has led some analysts to argue that Russia is gearing up for a fresh offensive in eastern Ukraine. It would not be the first time in recent years that Russia has taken military action in a neighbouring country in the shadow of the Olympics. In August 2008 it went to war with Georgia; in March 2014 (just after the Sochi Winter Olympics) it annexed Crimea. Is Russia preparing for a third Olympic surprise?

Image: IQ Remix

Sprint finish

Worrying is part of Tamayo Marukawa’s new job as Japan’s Olympics minister. The country’s new national stadium and other sports venues are still years away from being built but those aren’t her biggest worries: the city’s traffic is. Marukawa, who recently returned from the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, said this week that Rio’s special Olympic car lanes didn’t do much to prevent athletes from getting stuck in traffic jams. In Tokyo streets are narrower and keeping traffic moving could prove even harder, she said. That’s true but given Tokyo’s extensive network of subways and trains, we’d advise encouraging people to stay off the roads and use public transport instead.

Image: Marwan Naamani/Getty Images

Noteworthy performance

The UAE’s cultural scene is set for a grand expansion as Dubai welcomes its very own opera house, designed by Danish architect Janus Rostock of WS Atkins. Despite opera being a distinctly western concept – Muscat’s Royal Opera House is the only other in the region – Dubai does not plan to put on an amateur performance. CEO and director Jasper Hope, fresh from a seven-year spell at the Royal Albert Hall, aims to stage 200 concerts a year, as well as art exhibitions, fashion shows and more, thanks to the building’s multipurpose structure. Famed tenor Plácido Domingo will host the opening night on 31 August and the schedule is already packed with myriad repertoires, from classics such as ‘The Barber of Seville’ to evenings of traditional Arabic song by Hussain al Jassmi.

Image: Getty Images

Heated debate

This week China celebrates its Hungry Ghost Festival, an occasion that sees ancestors worshipped and offerings burned to ward off returning spirits. For unsuspecting visitors the annual tradition can be a haunting time. In Hong Kong it’s customary to burn paper-made replicas of luxury goods, which has previously attracted the attention of legal teams eager to protect valuable intellectual property. Gucci was criticised earlier this year when it threatened to sue several small Hong Kong retailers for selling paper-made fashion items sporting its iconic logo. The Italian fashion house later apologised; keep your eyes peeled for flaming replica Gucci bags.

Starship delivery robot

For many years there has been talk of using robot technology to make food deliveries cheaper and easier. Now the future is much closer as the first delivery robots by Starship Technologies are set to hit the streets of the the UK, Switzerland, Germany and the US in the next few weeks. It’s still a trial phase and only for selected customers but the company is determined to roll out robot deliveries to the public next year.

Mogadishu – take-off

Somalia is a failed state but its airport, once a no-go zone, could offer a glimmer of hope. Writer Tristan McConnell and photographer Pete Muller illustrate the change.


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