Tuesday. 18/5/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: EBU / THOMAS HANSES

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Calling the tune

There’s something about Eurovision that gives me goosebumps. From Malmö to Tel Aviv, I have reported from Europe’s biggest television event for Monocle since 2013. I’ve spoken to many of the most interesting contestants as well as mayors of the cities hosting the event, such as former professional boxer and mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko. But this year’s event brings with it a timely dose of hope and optimism – and many of the competition’s entrants are trying to capture the mood with songs that make you yearn for a return to the dancefloor.

After taking a break last year due to coronavirus, Eurovision week is upon us once again. Semi-finals start today before the big final show on Saturday in Rotterdam in front of a live (if limited) audience. Sietse Bakker, executive producer of this year’s event, tells me that while hosting this event will, of course, be a challenge, we should expect the usual extravaganza. And the songs will not disappoint. Maltese entry Destiny – one of the favourites to win – is all about female empowerment and will make everyone shake their booties with “Je Me Casse”. Another contestant to watch is The Roop from Lithuania. “For our track this year, we knew we wanted something you could dance to,” lead singer Vaidotas Valiukevičius (pictured) told me. “When you dance, you feel good; by dancing you feel alive.”

Sure, I’ve always enjoyed a slice of Europop but what adds a frisson to this unique event is the fact that nations are in friendly competition. In an increasingly isolationist world, the Eurovision Song Contest serves as a simple reminder that unity – and good pop music – is what really makes the world go round.

Hear Pacheco’s special series on Eurovision, including interviews with contestants, throughout this week on ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Conflict / Myanmar

Up in arms

Myanmar’s army has entered Mindat, a small town in the western state of Chin, in a bid to vanquish a recently assembled local rebellion. Mindat is one of several towns where anti-junta residents have armed themselves against security forces. “This seems to have been a spontaneous uprising against the army in the wake of the coup,” Bill Hayton, an associate fellow for Chatham House who used to live and work in Myanmar, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “We’re talking about people using traditional hunting weapons, with percussion-lock firearms rather than AK-47s.” Almost 800 people have been killed since Myanmar’s generals seized power in February, deposing civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi after refusing to accept the results of November’s election. A new report by the Asian Network for Free Elections, an international monitoring group, found the election to be “representative of the will of the people”. Such findings will only make people more determined to take matters into their own hands.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Chile

Difference of opinion

Chile’s ruling Vamos coalition party sorely lost a plebiscite to determine who will write the South American nation’s new constitution. With Vamos-backed candidates clinching just 39 of the 155 seats that were up for grabs, and a two-thirds majority required to agree on new proposals, incumbent president Sebastián Piñera will have little control over the shape of the new social contract. Instead, a jumble of independents (who have taken the largest share), indigenous leaders and candidates backed by the left and centre-left have between them taken some 75 per cent of seats.

“This means that traditional politics is over,” Kirsten Sehnbruch of the International Inequalities Institute at the London School of Economics and a global professor at The British Academy tells The Monocle Minute. “The risk here is that a new consensus never emerges, meaning that the constitution could be rejected,” says Sehnbruch. “This change is in many ways good for Chile – but it also makes the future incredibly unpredictable.”

Image: FRANCOIS CAVELIER

Leisure / Japan

Park matters

Visitors to Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park got a shock yesterday when they discovered that the grassy central area is being turned into a restricted-access Olympic events space, with construction lorries moving in from 1 June. Although the park will be open to members of the public – with sponsored booths and a 13 metre screen for viewing the Games – numbers will be limited and pre-registration required. Central Tokyo is short of substantial parks and Yoyogi is a vital green lung where residents can jog, walk, hold yoga classes, practise antisocial brass instruments and, most importantly, relax. The timing isn’t ideal either: an Asahi Shimbun newspaper poll at the weekend showed that support for the Games has slumped to 14 per cent, with 83 per cent favouring postponement or cancellation. All but closing a big chunk of Yoyogi Park off for the entire summer (the park will be restored on 5 October) is surely not the best way to win support for Tokyo’s beleaguered Olympics.

Image: Getty Images

Tourism / Venice

Last chance lagoon

Cruise ships will be noticeably absent from Venice’s waters when the Biennale kicks off on Saturday, as Italian prime minister Mario Draghi banned cruise liners from Venice last month. Yet they won’t be gone for long: weeks after Draghi’s announcement, Venice’s right-wing mayor Luigi Brugnaro announced that, since an alternative port at Marghera is not ready, cruise ships will in fact be able to enter Venice’s lagoon from June. It’s the latest reversal from local officials of the ban, which was backed by widespread advocacy. “Ultimately this is not about tourist euros or even the environment,” says Diana Marrone of activist group Comitato No Grandi Navi. Rather, it’s about public safety on the waterways. “Eventually the lives of thousands of people will be at risk,” she says. For years, Venetians have heard promises that these mega-ships would be barred from the city’s waters. The pandemic has ushered in a move towards more sustainable tourism – but it will still take political will to achieve it.

Read more about the Venice Biennale and the city itself in The Monocle Minute throughout this week and in our special-edition newspaper that accompanies the event, which is on newsstands from Saturday.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Eureka 244: Kankan

Eliza Flanagan and Mary McLeod are co-founders of Kankan, a soap and personal-care brand they launched in 2019 to promote the circular economy. Their soaps and body wash come in aluminum cans, a great way to curb the proliferation of single-use plastic soap bottles. McLeod previously worked in retail buying, including for the department store House of Fraser, while Flanagan is behind successful Hackney eatery Lardo.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle’s digital decency manifesto

Technology is everywhere but that ubiquity can come at a cost to our health, wellbeing and the quality of our conversations. View our manifesto for a more dignified relationship with all things digital and learn to be a little kinder and more cautious online.

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