Monday. 9/8/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Fiona Wilson

Olympic whirlwind

As the round-ups of Tokyo 2020 roll in, all seem to agree on one thing: it has been a strange couple of weeks. It must have been bizarre enough for visiting reporters whose view of Tokyo was predominantly shaped through bus windows as they shuttled between venues. For those of us who live here, it was odd in a different way. There was a sense of living two parallel lives: a once-in-a-lifetime front-row view of the world’s best athletes in action and then back in our neighbourhoods where the Olympics might as well have been happening in another country. The Japanese public took their exclusion with characteristic good grace but I was dogged by guilt for enjoying what so many couldn’t.

A few of my memorable moments? Watching karateka Ryo Kiyuna from Okinawa, the birthplace of karate, win a sublime gold in the Budokan, the spiritual home of Japanese martial arts (accompanied by the thrilled applause of his team and the Japanese volunteers). Experiencing legacy venues from 1964, such as the Budokan and the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, which were given a second Olympic outing. Being greeted with stellar charm by camo-wearing members of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces at the entry point of every venue; the police, who had been drawn from all over Japan and were mostly unfamiliar with the capital, just couldn’t compete. The rows of morning glory plants, grown by the city’s primary school pupils and labelled with messages of good luck for the athletes. The extravagantly ecstatic reaction of the Italian man in front of me when Italy pipped Great Britain to the gold medal in the 4x100 metres men’s gold.

We’ll all remember the heat (I’ve no idea how the women’s beach volleyball finalists made it through on Friday) and the trill of the cicadas. Some events had been moved to the supposedly cooler climes of Hokkaido only to be greeted by a heatwave there too. I thought I’d misread the 05.30 start time for the men’s 50km walk. Japan excels at hospitality and throughout, there were painful reminders of what these games might have been if the venues had been filled with spectators but, of course, it wasn’t to be. Just how bad the coronavirus hangover will be remains to be seen. What a rollercoaster. It seemed entirely in keeping with the extraordinary nature of Tokyo 2020 that the closing day was marked by the arrival of a typhoon.

Image: Alamy

Politics / Spain

Water, tabled

A citizen-driven scheme is underway to grant Mar Menor, Europe’s largest saltwater lagoon, the same legal rights as an individual. Campaigners in Murcia in southeastern Spain are almost halfway to receiving the 500,000 citizen signatures needed before legislation to grant Mar Menor (pictured) “legal personhood” will be considered by parliament in October. It would mark a first in Europe, allowing for the natural space to be defended in court in the same way as a person or business. The unique ecosystem of the lagoon has been threatened in recent years by urban development and contamination from nitrates used by farmers in the region. It’s an unusual approach to protecting our natural wonders but one that could pay off: similar initiatives in Colombia and New Zealand have protected the Atrato and Whanganui rivers, respectively. If successful, the next step will be finding Mar Menor a good lawyer.

Image: Alamy

Urbanism / Canada

Locked in

Which parts of the pandemic do we want our cities to keep? Discussions have begun in several Canadian cities over whether to make some of the unique initiatives launched in the past year permanent. In Toronto, many residents have called for the hugely popular ActiveTO programme, which closed some of the city’s major arteries to cars on weekends, to be retained.

Similarly the city’s CafeTO programme, which allows restaurants and cafés to open outdoor dining areas on cordoned-off areas of the streets, has enlivened the streetscape so much that many diners and restaurant owners want it to stay. In Vancouver, the so-called “parking lot” restaurants have similarly become a staple of summer dining, while in cities including Ottawa, Halifax and Calgary, temporary bike lanes installed in the past year are now being fully incorporated into the transport network. For cities in Canada and elsewhere, it’s clear that some pandemic-era restrictions have left their mark – in lasting, positive ways.

Image: Rossini Opera Festival

Culture / Italy

Sing for a day

Italian cities empty out in the month of August so if you want to put on a cultural event in high summer, there’s only one place to head: the coast. From today, the Adriatic town of Pesaro is celebrating the 42nd edition of its Rossini Opera Festival. The event is proof of the G20’s recent recognition of culture as a vital cog in the sustainable growth of an economy: since 1980, this small coastal town has become an international focal point for opera lovers, with 70 per cent of festival visitors coming from outside the region and half from overseas. This year’s event, which runs until 22 August, is dedicated to British opera director Graham Vick, who died last month at the age of 67 due to complications with coronavirus. We recommend taking in a spectacle at the elegant Teatro Rossini, which dates back to 1637. Now that’s worth producing a coronavirus “green pass” for.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Eureka 256: Tinwood Estate

Art Tukker is the founder of Tinwood Estate, an English sparkling wine producer in southern England. The brand was launched in 2007 and makes wines from traditional champagne varietals.

Monocle Films / Global

The 2021 Monocle Art Survey

From gallerists to artists, collectors to auctioneers, we check in with industry players to find why – digital innovations or not – seeing art in real life matters, how the past year has shaken up the market and what exhibitions you should add to a calendar that’s filling up nicely.

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