Friday. 24/7/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Action replay

Live sports are beginning to look good again. Although empty stadiums, fake crowd noise and odd rules about physically distanced celebrations have made football less fun to watch, the televised resumption of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the US has been a slicker affair.

In well-lit, beautifully branded indoor sports venues in Disney World, Florida (the NBA’s sealed-off “bubble”), a made-for-TV sports spectacle is being executed over the next four months with an only-in-America level of cinematic polish. It’s entertaining and almost as good as the pre-lockdown competition. Importantly, it could help the organisation recoup more than $1bn (€850,000) in revenue that will not only support teams but the entire staff and infrastructure of this huge sports organisation.

Although beyond the bubble a public-health emergency still ravages the world, the Olympic Games is also being brought back into focus. It marked its “one year to go” moment this week with a powerful short film stating – emphatically – that the show will go on. The Olympics is a sporting and cultural spectacle that the entire world tunes into every four years. It’s for this reason that, no matter what is happening on the ground, the International Olympic Committee must nail its media coverage ahead of and during the rescheduled event in 2021. The promotional teaser is a good start but, in terms of a televised spectacle, Tokyo’s Games must truly raise the bar – the world is going to need it.

Diplomacy / USA & China

Closed doors

China’s consulate in Houston (pictured) is set to close today after being given 72 hours to do so by the US government, in reaction to alleged Chinese transgressions in the US, including intellectual property theft and visa fraud. Exact details for why Houston, specifically, must close are unclear – but with Trump facing re-election, he has little to lose domestically in hammering China. Its reputation in the US and across the West has taken blow after blow this year: from the perception that it failed to contain the spread of the coronavirus to the widespread condemnation of the Hong Kong security law. “One of the difficulties that we’re facing in this escalating confrontation is that public opinion, both in the US and in China, is now highly charged with nationalist sentiment,” Isabel Hilton, CEO of news platform China Dialogue, told The Globalist. “That very much reduces the space that any leadership has for retreating from this confrontation.”

Urbanism / Global

Stress test

What makes a city stressful? Congestion levels; density; hours of sunshine; levels of unemployment? These factors and more affect our enjoyment of life in urban environments – and can determine whether a city is healthy for you or not. A study by German mortgage-broker Baufi24 has ranked 33 world capitals from most to least stressful using four key categories: city life, environment, finance and health. At the top of the list is Santiago, Chile, due to its poor air quality and high population density. At the other end of the scale – the least stressful – is the Swiss city of Bern (pictured), which fared particularly well in the health category. In the post-pandemic world, this metric will be an interesting one to watch: the availability of doctors and distance to medical facilities are sure to become more important than ever when choosing which city to call home – and living a less stressful life. For more on life in our cities, tune in to The Urbanist.

Space / Global

Up in the air

It was the United Arab Emirates on Monday and yesterday, just days before the start of a Nasa mission planned for 30 July, China launched its own probe to Mars from its spaceport on Hainan Island (pictured). The successive journeys are reminiscent of the space race that took place between the US and Russia during the cold war – all the more so against the backdrop of the ongoing Sino-US trade war and increasing technological and scientific rivalry. But is something other than geopolitical posturing taking place in this new space race? “There are obviously benefits associated with scientific discovery attached to this mission,” says Rosemary Foot, professor of international relations at the University of Oxford. By China having its own missions, it avoids having to rely on the US for scientific information and drives domestic innovation. “But there are prestige and political elements associated with it too,” says Foot. “Technological competition between the two states will continue for some time to come.”

F&B / London

Setting the table

The reopening of London’s restaurants earlier this month was a welcome relief not only for diners but also the cooks, waiters and sommeliers who had spent months on the sidelines. Now, with physical-distancing restrictions still in place, a new platform called Apt will help groups of friends to dine in a more intimate setting. Born out of lockdown, the platform allows diners to hire one of 98 private apartments at East London’s Town Hall Hotel (pictured) for breakfast, lunch or dinner, for which their choice of chef will create a menu for as many as 10 people. “It’s almost like a restaurant-hire service,” says Apt creator Richard Lee Massey, who has teamed up with London-based supplier Tutto Wines and chefs including James Cochran of Restaurant 12:51, Ixta Belfrage of Ottolenghi and Ravinder Bhogal of Jikoni. Apt has received hundreds of inquiries in just a few weeks and its events begin on Wednesday – so get your reservations in early.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

CitizenM and Mettle

CitizenM has fast-tracked the launch of an app across its 20 properties. It is designed to ensure that as much of the hotel experience as possible can be contactless. We ask Robin Chadha, CitizenM’s chief marketing officer, how the company will retain a warm and personal touch for guests. Plus: we meet Marieke Flament, CEO of Mettle, who tells us how its digital account is helping small brands to focus less on finance and more on what really matters.

Monocle Films / Italy

Italian industry special: The fabric mill

From cotton fields in Egypt to state-of-the-art laboratories in Bergamo, our search for quality “Made in Italy” textiles focuses on the fifth-generation Albini Group.

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