The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 22 August 2016

Image: Robert F. Bukaty/PA Images

Sink or swim?

Despite the best efforts of US swimmer Ryan Lochte (a man whose honesty comes in an even smaller size than his swimming trunks), brand Rio de Janeiro – and in turn brand Brazil – has won some much-needed glow following the conclusion of the Olympics yesterday. Rio’s residents, the Cariocas, have come across as welcoming and pleasantly raucous, the city has dazzled in the spotlight and visitors have found that going with the flow works. But how can the city capitalise on this? While the question of security may bother some, the city and nation needs to look at some more fundamental questions. How do you enable non-Brazilian investors to flourish in a nation that spews red tape? How do you ensure that once on the ground the infrastructure – from telecoms to urban metros – continues to progress? In a tough economy it may prove tricky but for now Brazil’s problems seem less significant next to Lochte’s.

Image: Getty Images

Testing times for Taiwan

Taiwan is in for a testing week as a high-level Chinese delegation arrives today for the Shanghai-Taipei forum. The annual city-level dialogue has gained significance this year as the first to be held under Tsai Ing-wen’s leadership, which has cooled relations across the Taiwan Strait. Tonight’s official dinner calls for a statesman-like turn from Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je (pictured, left) after top-level communication channels were cut; the host’s reputation for speaking his mind, however, will undoubtedly have some diplomats sitting uncomfortably. Heightened tensions will be tested further by the unfortunate timing of Taiwan’s live-fire military exercises, held annually in preparation for a possible Chinese invasion. After the Taiwanese navy mistakenly fired a missile towards China earlier this year the island doesn’t need anything else to go off accidentally.

Image: Getty Images

Back to reality

Italian schools may still have more than a fortnight of holidays ahead – their summer break is the longest in Europe at 13 weeks – but this Monday has a definite “back-to-business” feel. Ferragosto is officially over. An old custom it may be but the weeks-long break around the 15 August holiday still holds strong and is respected almost as religiously as Christmas by companies and shops across the country. During the hot summer month cities such as Turin and Rome turn into ghost towns. Despite the recognition that such a long hiatus can’t be good for business, the Italians are reticent to change their ways: even discussions about whether shops should open on Sundays are controversial. The Ministry of Culture may have managed to encourage state-run museums to stay open on the day for tourists’ sake but for most businesses today’s the day to wake up from that sweet long beach nap and get back to work.

Image: Justin Tang/PA Images

Grand plans

Plans are underway to revive what was once one of the grandest embassies in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. The former US embassy, dating from 1932, was designed in the beaux arts style by Cass Gilbert, famed for his iconic Woolworth Building skyscraper in New York. Rendered in Indiana limestone and fitted with panels of American oak and marble from Vermont, the embassy has been empty since 1998, when the current US mission opened its doors. Canada’s environment minister Catherine McKenna recently announced that a three-week consultation would now commence, welcoming ideas on what do to with this “architectural gem”. A long-mooted plan to house a national portrait gallery in the former embassy will now be reconsidered but a scheme to create a “repository” of notable Canadian objects – from Canadian innovations in science and technology to Celine Dion’s first gold record – is also on the table.

From Monocle 24

Image: Chopstuey

How to crowdfund

Tom Shingler of Great British Chefs and The New York Times columnist Constance Gustke give us some top tips for successful crowdfunding in the hospitality sector.

From Monocle Films

Neighbourhood: Chai Wan

Hong Kong’s east side is a former industrial neighbourhood undergoing a renaissance. We explore the warehouses that are now home to stores, galleries and innovative start-ups moving away from downtown.

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