Wednesday 4 August 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 4/8/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Megan Gibson

After shocks

A year ago today a devastating blast destroyed Beirut’s port and ripped through the surrounding neighbourhoods of the city. The explosion was caused by the ignition of thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate that was stored at the port. It killed more than 217 people and injured 7,000. It also left 300,000 people homeless.

Today the Lebanese capital is still struggling to rebuild. Thanks to political turmoil, corruption and financial ineptitude, the recovery has been stymied and now a growing fuel and electricity crisis has sent the country into freefall. Any headway has been due to the efforts of citizens, NGOs and the private sector – a painstaking form of progress that has been chronicled by Monocle magazine over the past year.

In response to a nation failing before its eyes, the international community has offered little tangible help. Though Emmanuel Macron was quick to visit Lebanon following the blast and pledged to push both political and economic reforms through in the country, in practice his promises yielded little in the face of obstinate political infighting.

Similarly, the EU, along with the World Bank and the UN, issued assessments in the weeks following the blast detailing the institutional reforms that Lebanon would have to implement before gaining access to international aid. But as the country has repeatedly failed to produce a reformist government – its caretaker administration is on its third prime minister since last August – many have lost hope that politicians will ever enact what’s needed. The EU has changed gear and announced targeted sanctions, which could include asset freezes or travel bans for certain politicians, but there seems to be little momentum among Lebanon’s elite to instigate change. A year ago today, it was hard to imagine the country in a worse place. Now it’s increasingly difficult to predict how much worse it can get.

For more on the anniversary, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ and to Monocle 24 throughout the day.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Belarus

Over the line

The EU’s home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson was in Vilnius earlier this week to draw attention to a particularly pernicious developing crisis: thousands of migrants have illegally crossed from Belarus into neighbouring Lithuania since the start of the year. In an exclusive interview with Monocle, Estonia’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas (pictured), lays the blame squarely at the feet of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. “It’s a hybrid type of conflict,” says Kallas. “It’s not a migration crisis because it’s clearly orchestrated to destabilise a small country. It should be seen as such but not all of our Western allies see it this way.” Though the numbers that have crossed to date might seem modest, Kallas points out that these are very small countries. “For a country of three million such as Lithuania, even taking in 5,000 migrants has wider implications for society,” she adds. Kallas urges more attention to be paid to the EU’s eastern border. “We have to fight this together.”

Hear more from Kallas on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ and later this year in a special edition of ‘The Chiefs’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / Germany

High achiever

Airlines and airports need every bit of good news they can find at the moment. Frankfurt airport operator Fraport delivered some yesterday by reporting a return to profitability in the second quarter – its first since the start of the pandemic. It has helped that Fraport has built up a more diverse portfolio in recent years. Passenger traffic on peak days remains about half of its record levels from 2019 and was down about 80 per cent overall in the first half of this year but it benefited from gains in its cargo business, which is up 9 per cent compared to 2019.

The operator has also had help from German federal and state-aid programmes as well as from Greece, where it operates 14 regional airports. Fraport’s efforts to stay aloft highlight the challenges that the aviation industry faces but CEO Stefan Schulte says that Fraport is “well positioned to benefit from the expected recovery in air travel”.

Image: Getty Images

Olympics / Japan

Winners’ circle

What has been your favourite moment of the Tokyo Olympics so far; the one that will stay with you well after the Games have gone? Our correspondents on The Monocle Daily, including Emma Searle, Christopher Cermak and Chiara Rimella, have been looking back over previous Games for moments that extended beyond the sporting arena.

Barcelona, 1992. Exiled from the Games for 32 years, South Africa was invited back for Barcelona and Elana Meyer’s victory lap alongside Ethiopian Derartu Tulu after the 10,000 metre final made history. The image of a black woman from Ethiopia and a white Afrikaner from South Africa holding hands (pictured), wrapped in each other’s flags, encompassed Nelson Mandela’s hopeful vision of a different future for South Africa. It showed that the Games can create moments that transcend sport.

Sydney, 2000. Baseball might be as American as apple pie but the US has been given short shrift in international competitions and the game has historically been dominated by Cuba and Japan. It wasn’t until 2000 that the US managed to win Olympic gold with a ragtag bunch of amateurs and youngsters. Americans might prioritise their domestic professional league and the (poorly named) World Series but winning as an underdog in Sydney is what many on that team consider to be the most memorable moment of their careers.

Athens, 2004. Italy finished eighth in the medals table in Athens, including taking gold in one of the lesser watched sports: archery. The 21-year-old Marco Galiazzo, at his very first Olympics, managed to beat decorated 42-year-old Japanese archer Hiroshi Yamamoto, who was competing in his final Games. The win was a reminder of the joy and passion that can be found watching those sports that are given less time in the spotlight. This one hit the bullseye.

To hear reports from our correspondents on their favourite Olympic moments, tune in to ‘The Monocle Daily all this week at 18.00 London time on Monocle 24 – or check out our archive.

Image: Alamy

Transport / France

Traffic calming

The loud screech of a moped or motorbike is a sound that punctuates cities the world over – but could it soon be a thing of the past? In France, an “anti-noise radar” scheme that is designed to clamp down on disruptively loud vehicles has been trialled since 2019 and prototypes will be unveiled next year across eight cities, including Paris, Nice and Toulouse. Using technology that combines microphones and cameras, the radar identifies drivers who exceed a certain volume, which is yet to be decided. Over time, the hope is that it can eliminate the “noise peaks” caused by revving motors or customised exhausts that are much louder than the general hum of city life and, aside from being infuriating, have a detrimental effect on our health. The scheme has a clear potential benefit for citizens’ wellbeing so we wouldn’t be surprised if something similar crops up in your city sooner rather than later. You heard it here first.

M24 / Monocle on Culture

Alan Whicker

In the year that legendary British broadcaster Alan Whicker would have turned 100, the BFI is celebrating this pioneer of journalism and documentary. Robert Bound discusses his colourful career with Jane Ray, artistic director of The Whicker awards, and the BFI’s archive TV programmer, Dick Fiddy.

Monocle Films / Global

Retail special: tea emporiums

The perfect hot drink is not always an espresso or a flat white: more and more specialty shops around the world are opening their doors to tea aficionados in search of the perfect brew. Monocle Films visits emporiums in Berlin, New York and London dedicated to the heritage, ritual and taste of tea.


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