Thursday. 1/7/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

OPINION / Tomos Lewis

Big stick diplomacy

You would be hard pressed to find a fiercer city rivalry in Canada than between Montréal and Toronto. This week it’s been revived by the Montréal Canadiens’ triumphant ascent to the finals of the Stanley Cup – the oldest sporting trophy in North America – which started on Monday. The last time a Canadian team won the National Hockey League, which has been dominated by US teams despite ice hockey’s storied place in Canada’s sporting life, was in 1993 when the Habs (the Canadiens’ nickname) claimed victory. That might seem like a long time ago but Montréalers still hold it over their nearest Canadian rivals.

But even Toronto’s most curmudgeonly hockey fans might crack a smile if Montréal beats Tampa Bay in the best-of-seven-game series to win hockey’s highest prize – particularly given that the mood around Canada’s national holiday, which is marked today, has otherwise taken a more sombre tone. In the front garden of a house along my street in Toronto a yard sign bears the words “Happy Canada Day” with “happy” crossed out and the word “thoughtful” scrawled in its place. Several cities have cancelled today’s official celebrations following the grim discoveries of unmarked mass graves of indigenous children at former residential schools in the provinces of British Columbia and Saskatchewan (pictured) in recent weeks. Prime minister Justin Trudeau has urged a day of reflection, rather than celebration.

Polls show that broader public opinion does not support a push by some activists to cancel Canada Day altogether – but it’s a complicated moment. In many parts of the country reconciliation has been equated with erasing the symbols of Canada’s colonial past, removing statues or changing the names of streets and institutions. But confronting and making amends for what those symbols represent could be a more meaningful response than removing all references to the darker chapters of Canada’s complicated history. Reflecting and rethinking the past – whether in society, in communities, in education, and, indeed, in sports rivalries – should itself be a source of national pride for those undertaking it.

Image: Alamy

Politics / China

Turn of the century

People across China today will mark 100 years since the founding of the Chinese Communist Party and president Xi Jinping, the country’s most pivotal leader since Mao Zedong, will be the central figure. The pomp and ceremony includes a speech by Xi in Tiananmen Square, no doubt echoing his comments earlier this week lauding the “splendid chapter in the history of the Chinese nation’s development and that of humanity’s progress”.

Absent will be any vision of the next century that does not include Xi. “More and more, people are less willing to say anything,” Beijing-born author and professor Diane Wei Liang told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. “There is a trade-off: you work and live in China and benefit from the development and prosperity but you do need to give up something. That [freedom of speech] to me is a lot to give up – and I think for a lot of young people it rates the same.”

Tune in to today’s episode of ‘The Globalist’ to hear from China expert Isabel Hilton and Beijing correspondent for ‘The Daily Telegraph’ Sophia Yan as part of our ongoing series this week discussing the future of the Chinese Community Party.

Image: Getty Images

AVIATION / Saudi Arabia

Tourist attraction

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman plans to launch a second national airline in the country’s latest move to diversify away from oil towards a new status as a “global logistics hub connecting three continents”. Capitalising on its convenient geography, the new airline will double the nation’s cargo capacity to over 4.5 million tonnes and increase the number of destinations to more than 250.

Construction of a new airport in Riyadh is also being considered to serve tourists and business travellers, while existing flag carrier Saudia will focus on religious travellers to and from Jeddah (pictured). Plans to develop ports, roads and rail services are also underway. The country wants to attract 100 million tourists a year (about a third making religious pilgrimages) by 2030. That’s an unlikely six-fold increase from 2019 and above the pre-pandemic levels of France, the world’s most popular tourist destination. Saudi Arabia needs more than just good travel connections for such lofty ambitions to take flight.

Image: Alamy

Tourism / Thailand

Warm welcome

The Thai island of Phuket is reopening to foreign tourists today after a year-long lockdown. Fully vaccinated visitors will now be allowed to enter the island with no quarantine requirements under a “sandbox” scheme – a test run that could encourage other regions of Thailand to reopen to tourism as well. The first 300 visitors will arrive on the island today, while some 100,000 tourists are expected to visit Phuket in the next three months, according to the Thai tourism minister. Thailand’s tourism industry has taken a tough hit in the past year with more than two million people losing their jobs due to business shutdowns. While parts of the country, including Bangkok, are still in lockdown, the reopening of Phuket could be a first step towards the nation’s economic recovery and a bellwether for similar schemes in the region.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Fashion / Italy

Dressed to impress

Fashion is back in full force in Italy, with the 100th anniversary edition of menswear trade event Pitti Immagine Uomo opening its gates to thousands of buyers, journalists and sartorially savvy visitors in Florence yesterday. “Combining three days of Milan’s menswear fashion week and three days of Pitti, we Italians have put together the world’s best week for men’s fashion, that’s for sure,” says Brunello Cucinelli, whose eponymous Perugian label was a key exhibitor, showcasing a collection that celebrated dressing for occasions in a relaxed but tailored manner. “It is an open-air event where you see how fashion is doing and where the industry is heading.” The dialogues emerging from Pitti are very much about the importance of dressing up again in the wake of the pandemic but also on improving the industry. This culminated in a sustainable style showcase, where emerging designers showed how deadstock fabrics could be upcycled into works of beauty, highlighting the leaps and bounds the industry is making to create planet-friendly textiles and production techniques.

Image: Max B Photo

M24 / Monocle on Design

‘Carve, Curve, Cane’

We stop by a new exhibition by design studio Bassamfellows in New York, then discuss sustainability and the circular economy with design writer Katie Treggiden. Plus: we get the highlights from the menswear collections featured at Paris Fashion Week.

Monocle Films / Berlin

Studio Babelsberg: reel deal

Despite the ubiquity of digital effects in cinema, Berlin’s Studio Babelsberg has preserved the craft of prop making. Its lifelike items continue to appear in some of the biggest movies today. We inspect the studio’s stunning hand-built sets and its museum-like archives.

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