Tuesday. 27/7/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Fiona Wilson

Flying the flag

So, the Tokyo 2020 Games are underway. After months of delay, indecision, acrimony, resignations and protests, the athletes are finally getting to do their part. Once the opening ceremony was over – watched by more than 70 million in Japan – there was a collective sigh of relief as the event kicked off in earnest. No amount of Japanese gold medals will fully obliterate the sense of an unwelcome Games foisted on a reluctant public but there is plenty of support for the athletes and an enthusiasm for sport that even the pandemic can’t suppress.

Early success for Japan has helped to lift the mood too. A roar went up in households around the capital when young judoka Uta Abe secured her gold medal on Sunday and then cheered on her older brother, Hifumi (pictured, on left, with Uta), as he won his judo gold. It was a fairytale day for the siblings and a tonic for many Japanese too. My companions beamed with pride; another friend said she was in floods of tears. Local boy Yuto Horigome won the first ever Olympic gold for skateboarding in ferocious heat on Sunday; his compatriot, 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya, followed with another gold yesterday.

Prime minister Yoshihide Suga will be hoping for more of that to boost national spirits – although judging by his dire polling this weekend, he is yet to see a bounce in popularity. And though the heat looked tough on the triathlon competitors yesterday morning, the next hurdle is Tropical Storm Nepartak, lurking off the east coast of Japan and threatening to make landfall today. Tokyo citizens will be hoping that the drama stays in the sporting arena.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Tunisia

Turning point

Young democracies inevitably face a test of faith. Tunisia is facing such a pivotal moment after president Kais Saied suspended parliament and sacked prime minister Hichem Mechichi yesterday. It follows the weekend’s nationwide protests, which marked the culmination of months of growing anger towards the moderate Islamist ruling party Ennahda, in large part due to a poor response to the pandemic and a perpetually weak economy. Saied, an independent, said in a televised address to the nation that he had suspended parliament for 30 days on the grounds of safety. Celebrations in the streets “suggest that Saied’s move is widely popular,” says Francesca Ebel, a Tunis-based journalist. “However there are many calling this move a coup d’état and some are anxious about a potential return to the dictatorship Tunisians overthrew in 2011.” Democracy takes dedication and a willingness to accept elections even when unhappy with a country’s direction. We hope Tunisia doesn’t throw in the towel just yet.

For more on Tunisia’s political upheaval, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Economy / Global

Sound investment

From economic recovery to climate change, Mark Carney, the former Bank of England governor, sees a decidedly mixed picture ahead. While many advanced economies are looking strong, having largely adapted to how businesses have to operate and how people spend their money in the aftermath of the pandemic, Carney (pictured) tells Monocle that’s not the case in most emerging economies, where the coronavirus has yet to be contained.

And on climate change, Carney, who has a new role as a UN special envoy on climate action and finance, points to a positive shift towards sustainability from the private sector and even in financial markets in countries like China. While he laments the lateness with which the world has turned its attention to the issue, he is confident that there’s still time in the run-up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow later this year. “We have a real chance of making a breakthrough in Glasgow,” he says.

Hear more from Mark Carney in today’s episode of ‘The Chiefs’ with Monocle’s editorial director Tyler Brûlé. Listen live at 13.00 London time on Monocle 24.

Image: Courtesy of ASTRA

Transport / Switzerland

Taking the high road

Every motorway commuter knows what that dreaded construction sign means: prepare for a massive traffic jam that you’ll be unable to swerve around. But what if, instead of driving around the construction, you could drive over it? The Swiss road authority will test a novel concept: a portable bridge that can be assembled on site, covering two lanes for a length of more than 200 metres. It’s billed as safer for workers, who are protected underneath the 4 metre-high metal bridge, and quicker for commuters, who won’t have to face costly detours. The challenges? Assembly currently requires 16 lorries to put the parts in place and there are some concerns that drivers could balk at the 6 per cent gradient to climb the bridge. To iron out the issues, the first parts of the bridge are currently being delivered to a testing facility. If all goes well, the road tests should be ready for spring 2022.

Image: Alamy

Retail / UK

Fiscal cliff

Can London’s latest attraction tempt shoppers back to Oxford Street? Yesterday saw the opening of the Marble Arch Mound, a 25 metre-high artificial hillock created by Winy Maas of the Dutch architecture firm MVRDV. It sits at the western end of Oxford Street, a strip whose fortunes have been badly hit during the pandemic; even the venerable Selfridges was officially put up for sale yesterday by owners the Weston family (they are hoping to attract a tidy sum of £4bn (€4.68bn) from a successful bidder). Envisioned by the borough council as a means of drawing visitors back to the area, the shrub-covered mound offers impressive views across Hyde Park, and beneath it is a hollowed-out space to be used for events and exhibitions. Our opening-day visit suggests a spotty start: the recent heatwave has left the mound looking more sunburnt and arid than the verdant renders of it that have been touted on posters around London. Like the high street, the mound will be hoping for a kinder climate in the days ahead.

Image: Shutterstock

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Historical series: The Cuban Missile Crisis

In part three of our historical summer series, we travel back in time to 1962 to chart the Cuban Missile Crisis. What does Fidel Castro think he’s playing at? Who is making the decisions in the Kremlin and the White House? And is there any peaceful way out of this? Andrew Mueller speaks to Henry Rees-Sheridan, James Rodgers, Alex von Tunzelmann, and Tom Nichols.

Monocle Films / Global

Retail special: tasty tipples

Monocle Films visits makers of sherry, gin and whiskey to discover their recipes for success. The memorable flavours and sharp designs of their refined drinks are a perfect tonic for the year ahead.

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