Tuesday. 30/3/2021

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Press start

Theme parks are a formative soft-power tool: visiting one is often a child’s first experience of a country or region, its culture and image. Take Disney’s offerings: they are one of the first things that come to mind when I think of the US. I remember the pop-culture rush in my veins when I visited Walt Disney World in Orlando as a 14-year-old. The gift shops and snacks of giant smoked turkey legs were all very exotic to a Brazilian.

Now Japan is using one of its most recognisable global brands to get in on the act. After a number of coronavirus-related delays, Super Nintendo World has opened in Osaka, inside Universal Studios Japan. The theme park, which cost more than €484m, is everything you would expect from a reimagining of the Nintendo video games world – you’ll find me checking out what a real Mario Kart ride looks like and taking a slow trip on Yoshi’s train. Its launch was originally planned to coincide with the 2020 Olympics but continuing travel restrictions mean that, for now, only Japanese residents will be able to visit. Yet the park has the potential to pull in international visitors, which can only be a boon for the country’s global image. There are already plans for overseas expansion, with branches expected to open in Los Angeles, Orlando and Singapore.

The new opening should also offer a glimmer of optimism for the wider outdoor-entertainment industry. From Dollywood, near Nashville, to France’s Astérix Park and your city’s funfair, theme parks have been sorely missed during the pandemic. Their revival is one way for countries and cities to once again put their best foot forward – and for all of us to enjoy a welcome bit of youthful fun.

Defence / Myanmar

Ripple effect

Condemnation by mostly Western nations seems to have had little impact on events in Myanmar. Saturday was the bloodiest day since the 1 February military coup, as at least 114 protesters were killed across the country. But Sunday’s unprecedented statement by defence chiefs from 12 countries, which decried “the use of lethal force against unarmed people by the Myanmar Armed Forces and associated security services,” will have particularly hurt the junta. Japan and South Korea, countries that have had cordial relations with Myanmar’s military in the past, were among the signatories. Also, amid reports that 3,000 ethinic Karen villagers have fled across the border to Thailand, the Thai prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, expressed fears of an influx. “Please let this be an internal problem,” he said. As the violence escalates, so do the chances of it spilling beyond Myanmar’s borders.

Diplomacy / Libya

Peace dividend

Libya has been making steady progress towards peace since a ceasefire was agreed in October. The reopening of France’s embassy in Tripoli yesterday marks another welcome step, one that the Biden administration is expected to soon follow. More than 10 years after the deposing of Muammar Gaddafi, and following the exodus of many citizens as the country’s civil war took a turn for the worse in 2014, the return of embassies represents a show of confidence in Libya’s stability by overseas leaders such as Emmanuel Macron (pictured, on the right, with the head of Libya’s Presidential Council, Mohamed el-Menfi).

Although it’s a promising development, the key moment for Libya to set aside the past comes in the form of national elections scheduled for December. “Any further support in terms of investment will most likely come later, when a new, elected government is in place that has more legitimacy in the eyes of the Libyan people,” Mary Fitzgerald, a journalist and Libya expert, told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. “There will be more opportunity for tangible engagement after that.”

F&B / Switzerland

Support act

Like most countries, Switzerland’s hospitality and catering industry has suffered in the past year and the crisis is far from over. But Gastrosuisse, the country’s association for hotel and restaurant industry workers, is already looking ahead. To better prepare for the next crisis, the organisation is seeking a public referendum on whether federal aid should be enshrined in law. The group says that the current pandemic law gives the Federal Council power to enact emergency public health measures but not economic compensation. That prompted a slow and inefficient aid response, not to mention unfair regional differences. “If those affected are fairly compensated, this also strengthens the Federal Council in the fight against a pandemic and leads to a higher acceptance of the measures,” says Gastrosuisse president Casimir Platzer. The association hopes to garner the 100,000 signatures needed to put its proposals to a public vote. Governments would do well to listen to businesses and communities as they learn lessons from the pandemic.

Arts / Dubai

Live and direct

The 14th edition of Art Dubai, which launched yesterday and will run until 3 April, will bring together 50 galleries from around the world for one of the first in-person events of its kind in 2021 (the few other art fairs that have gone ahead this year kept things local). Organisers are expecting up to 20,000 visitors to see works, such as the one below by Jordan Nassar. The fair is helped by the fact that the United Arab Emirates is now behind only Israel and the Seychelles in vaccine-administration rates. The fair allows visitors to book in advance a time slot for entry and offers a “Remote Participation Programme” that supports galleries in regions unable to travel. According to the fair’s executive director, Benedetta Ghione, the decision to go ahead with a physical format was made in response to widespread screen fatigue. “After a year of consuming all of our culture digitally, people really crave coming together to see art in person,” Ghione tells The Monocle Minute. “That experience cannot be replaced.”

M24 / The Menu

Recipes for athletes

Chef Alan Murchison’s mission for top-notch food fit for athletes. Plus: Argentine chef Francis Mallmann’s latest venture on an Uruguayan beach.

Monocle Films / Belgium

Urban growth: Solitair tree nursery

Cities are often seen as the flipside of nature: synthetic, sleek and sometimes impersonal. For places that pine after being greener, the Solitair tree nursery provides a blueprint. Monocle travels to Belgium to visit it and discover the value of investing in the future.

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