Friday 30 July 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 30/7/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Living in the past

One quietish week early in 2021, the news cycle was obstinately declining to furnish us with an obvious subject for a show (it happens). The Foreign Desk producer Christy Evans said something about how much easier life would be if we could make shows about stuff that had already occurred. When the time came for this year’s Summer Series, we did exactly that.

Christy, fellow Foreign Desk producer Emma Searle and I settled on four historical events: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, the Suez Crisis of 1956, the Cuban Missile Crisis (pictured) of 1962 and the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. The rules we imposed were that neither the presenter nor the guests could know any more than they would have at the time. To our delight, the Foreign Desk’s regular pool of experts bought splendidly into the roles we assigned them. They included John Everard, former UK ambassador to North Korea, as HMG’s man being thrown out of Colonel Nasser’s Cairo; James Rodgers, former BBC correspondent in the USSR, as a Moscow stringer struggling to be heard over the mutterings of the eavesdropping KGB officer (played by Monocle’s Paige Reynolds); and Alex von Tunzelmann, historian and author, as an analyst breathlessly attempting to contextualise events.

It was not without sobering moments. We learned that the idea of a major war over the murder of an Austrian aristocrat seemed pretty risible more or less until it happened, and that the peaceful resolution of the Cuban affair was largely a consequence of John F Kennedy not knowing the full picture. It reminded us that journalism, like politics, is often a matter of winging it while flying blind. The way things actually do turn out, for better and for worse, is never preordained.

The final episode of ‘The Foreign Desk’ summer historical series, on the US embassy seizure in Iran, airs tomorrow on Monocle 24. Listen to the first three episodes wherever you get your podcasts.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Global

Calling the shots

The UK began sending nine million coronavirus vaccines to nations around the world this week. Five million will go to Covax, the UN-backed scheme dedicated to equitable global vaccine distribution. The remaining doses will be sent strategically to Indo-Pacific nations, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, and Commonwealth states including Kenya and Jamaica. Such deals are common: incentive-driven donations have been sent from the US to Taiwan in a bid to rebuff China, which by contrast reportedly requested that Paraguay sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan in return for vaccine doses. For the UK, such direct donations are under the guise of fostering the post-Brexit image of a renewed, global Britain. But is it the best approach? “Strengthening global mechanisms is the best way forward and would reduce the need to rely upon bilateral arrangements,” David Ross Harper, managing director of Harper Public Health Consulting Limited, tells The Monocle Minute. Nations would do well to get on with the tricky task of vaccinating the world – not just their allies.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Spain & Lebanon

Spanish bargain

Spain is coveting a more influential role on the world stage and has earmarked peacekeeping as a way of gaining it. In 2010 the EU nation led a UN mission, the Unifil interim force in Lebanon, for the first time. And now it has its sights set on a return to the country, which is dealing with health, political and economic crises. Spain currently contributes 650 troops to the 10,250-strong mission; that’s third-most in Europe, behind France and Italy (Asian and African nations contribute an even greater share).

Madrid would now like to take the lead again; it lost out to Ireland in 2016 and Italy when it last sought the role in 2018. This time Spain, whose defence minister Margarita Robles (pictured) was in Lebanon recently, has put forward experienced general Aroldo Lázaro for the 2022 to 2023 period. A decision is expected in the autumn; Spain is hoping for another chance to prove that it is leadership material.

Image: Getty Images

Olympics / Japan

Sporting chance

The Olympic programme has changed considerably since the first modern Olympics in 1896. Gone are the tug-of-war, croquet and polo of the early events, and introduced for the Tokyo Games are a host of new additions. At an Olympics marred by controversy, the new entrants have been a breath of fresh air.

Surfing. There was some concern that surfing might flop: well-paid pro surfers already travel the world on international tours and the swell in Japan is hardly coveted. But the joy emanating from Brazil’s Ítalo Ferreira when he won gold on Tuesday said it all. To the world’s best, an Olympic medal is a career highlight – not just another trinket.

3x3 Basketball. Basketball has been an Olympic fixture since 1936 but for Tokyo, officials added its street cousin, with two fewer players on the court per team and half the playing area. Since Latvia’s independence, its men’s team (pictured) has never qualified for the sport’s orthodox form but on Wednesday they won 3x3 gold. Here’s to new formats spreading the spoils.

BMX Freestyle. Daring freestyle cyclists will join the Olympic party this weekend. Competitors have 60-second runs in a skate park arena to land flips and tricks on their bikes. It might prompt some sporting classicists to muse about the good old days but broadening the Olympics to new audiences is worth a few tricks.

Image: Ben Broomfield

Fashion / UK

Address code

East London today welcomes the opening of Lab E20, a new hub for innovation and sustainable fashion designed by Raeburn, the studio of UK designer Christopher Raeburn. The 280 sq m co-creative space is launching with a six-month programme of exhibitions and events called Preview. These have been put together in collaboration with the British Fashion Council, co-working space D-Lab and clothes-rental app Loanhood, among others. “Since the formation of Raeburn in 2009 we have always been about innovation, inspiration and collaboration,” Raeburn tells The Monocle Minute. “Lab E20 has allowed us to truly bring those values to scale.” The men’s and womenswear designer, who is also the global creative director of Timberland, was tapped by property company Get Living to spearhead the space at Victory Plaza in the former Olympic Village. The new hub should not only boost the UK capital’s sustainable fashion offerings but could help to bring upstart businesses back into the community.

Image: Alamy

M24 / The Global Countdown


Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco looks at the top songs in Fiji this week.

Monocle Films / Global

Copenhagen: healthy city growth

The concept of kolonihave, a blissful combination of an allotment and a summer house, has shaped Danish cities since the late 17th century. Today avid growers convene in these colonies to find a peaceful place to commune with nature – and a community of diverse characters.


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