The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 26 August 2016

Image: Felix Odell

In full swing

The Eidgenössisches Schwing- und Älplerfest is Switzerland’s largest recurring sporting event and one of its top folk festivals too. Tonight the opening ceremony of the triannual Schwing competition will take over the Arène de la Broye in Fribourg’s town of Estavayer on the southern shores of Lake Neuchâtel. For those of you who’ve never come across the country’s national sport, Schwingen is a form of wrestling named after the winning move of swinging an opponent to the ground (you can find out much more about it in issue 87 of Monocle). This weekend some 250,000 people will be watching 275 burly competitors in jute wrestling breeches wring their way to the crown across seven sawdust rings. “The current king, Matthias Sempach, will be at the top to defend his title but he’ll face strong competition from the likes of Armon Orlik [the best Schwinger of 2016], Christian Stucki, Killian Wenger, Christian Schuler and Remo Käser,” says Estavayer 2016’s Nadine Crausaz, in anticipation of Sunday’s coronation of the new Schwing champion.

Image: Vladislav Bezrukov

Golden sands

Archaeologists have uncovered a gold pendant in the Bulgarian seaside spot Varna that may be the oldest piece of jewellery in the world – and the resort town is striking gold in other ways too. Once a bolthole-upon-sea during the communist era, the town has lately experienced a resurgence of interest with a pointed upswing in arrivals through the airport; this is thanks to new flights from Europe this summer and an aggressive outreach by local authorities to get its name on the map. All along Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, faded tourist towns with upbeat names such as Sunny Beach have been feeling a tourist surge from those in search of a cheaper escape and peaceful paddling as beaches in Turkey and Tunisia become a tougher sell.

Image: nuTonomy

Driverless designs

US start-up NuTonomy has launched the world’s first public trial of a driverless taxi system this week as the global race to develop autonomous city-cab networks picks up speed. The Singapore-based business beat international players such as Google and Uber – the latter of which is planning to introduce its first fleet of self-driving cars to the streets of Pittsburgh by the end of the month – to the punch. Since yesterday Singapore residents have been able to zip around Queenstown’s business district One-North in modified Renault and Mitsubishi electric cars and the service will be made widely available in 2018. NuTonomy’s leap ahead is credited to the research and development supplied by the city-state’s government and its SmartNation scheme, as well as its well-maintained roads. It goes to show how far nifty planning can get you in the game of urban innovation – particularly when you’re up against the likes of Tokyo, which plans to premiere robot transfer services by the 2020 Olympics.

Image: Dave Bloggs

Hot water

Water wars are not typically fought in North America but that’s exactly what’s happening in the Great Lakes region, where Canadian and US mayors are facing off over a decision allowing the Wisconsin suburb of Waukesha to siphon off drinking water from Lake Michigan. Waukesha says that its population of 70,000 needs the water as its own supplies are contaminated with cancer-causing radium and its aquifer is running low. Canadian mayors, however, argue that the exception to a 2008 ban on water diversion from Lake Michigan was granted without much analysis. “It’s a precedent-setting decision that is of great concern,” says Ontario’s Collingwood mayor Sandra Cooper in an interview on The Monocle Daily. “It has impacted other economic areas through shipping, the fishing industry and access to islands.” In other words, it’s a complex issue that’s only going to get hotter.

From Monocle 24

Image: coffee shop soulja

Sydney: the Sirius Building

This brutalist apartment complex sits near the southern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was designed in the late 1970s to accommodate working-class families who were displaced by gentrification in Sydney’s oldest neighbourhood but over the past year its future has become uncertain.

From Monocle Films

Artisan perfume makers

With a nod to the past and a wink to the future, Monocle Films takes a sniff of the world of perfume and the new generation of expert alchemists.

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