Monday 28 November 2016 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 28/11/2016

The Monocle Minute

Image: Keith Tsuji/Getty Images

Parsimonious podium

As Tokyo ramps up its preparations for the 2020 Olympics, pressing budgetary questions remain. The cost of building sporting venues and courses is now estimated at ¥3trn (€26bn) – four times the initial figure – and talk has turned to how organisers can spend less on the priciest venues. The latest idea: stage the rowing and canoe sprint competitions in Miyagi, 400km north of the Japanese capital, instead of at a new facility in Tokyo Bay. Building an Olympics venue in a region hit hard by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami has broad backing here but the savings wouldn't be as substantial as hoped. That's because organisers would need a second, remote Olympic Village for some athletes and would have to pay hefty cancellation fees for the Tokyo Bay building contracts. Japanese officials, who plan to meet with IOC later this month, are now reportedly leaning towards a slimmed-down version of the €409m Tokyo Bay plan for rowing and canoe races. Expect more talk of cost-cutting steps in the months ahead.

Image: James MacDonald/Getty Images

Democracy for the diaspora

As voting practices in the US come under greater scrutiny following Donald Trump's win, Justin Trudeau's Liberals across the border have announced that they'll be looking to repeal various changes that former prime minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government made to the voting process while in power. One key change will have a very big impact on Canadians living outside the country. While those who have spent five or more consecutive years abroad are currently barred from voting in elections back home, democratic institutions minister Maryam Monsef announced last week that the government has plans to introduce a bill that would repeal that ban. “We recognise that, in the 21st century, people are living abroad for a number of different reasons,” she told reporters in Ottawa. “We see greater value in opening up democracy than we do in placing unnecessary barriers for good, honest, hardworking Canadians who want to be able to vote.”

Developing restraint

Heritage preservation in Hong Kong has a chequered past; as recently as last year some signature tong lau tenement houses were bulldozed in the name of development. The government has, however, enjoyed some success with a scheme that invites non-profit private organisations to adapt and reuse former police stations, courthouses, markets and other surplus government properties of historical note. Completed projects include a police station turned waterside hotel in Tai O and the North Kowloon Magistracy, which now houses the Savannah College of Art & Design’s Asia campus. Last week four more buildings were added to the list of potential sites, including a former British army barracks in the centre of the city. Hong Kong’s political future may be hanging in the balance but its history of adaptability should not be forgotten.

Image: Altaf Qadr/PA

All booked up

While the UK’s education boards are busy cutting subjects such as art history from school curriculums, India has decided to enhance and modernise the syllabus across more than 2,000 schools. At an annual convention last week, the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations decided to include, among others, The Hobbit and the works of PG Wodehouse; graphic novels from The Adventures of Tintin to American cartoonist Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust saga Maus have also made the cut. When asked the purpose of this reshuffle, council chief executive Gerry Arathoon said, “To prepare the future generation of learners to meet the challenges of an ever-advancing knowledge-based society and a dynamically changing environment.”

The Menu

A report from Zurich’s Slow Food Market, which proves that other countries could learn a trick or two from the Swiss slow-food movement.

Isetan: shopping as spectacle

One of Japan's most venerable department stores, Isetan stocks everything you'll ever need. We hit the shop floor to find out the secret of its success.


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