Friday. 4/2/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Carlota Rebelo

Cross country

Lunch at my grandmother’s was always a predictable affair. Once the dishes were cleared, you would plonk yourself in front of the TV and watch black-and-white films or repeats of Italian game show L’eredità: not too thrilling for a 10-year-old. But every four years was an event we could all agree on: the Winter Olympics was my grandmother’s favourite – and mine too.

Growing up in Madeira, Portugal, winter sports and snow were a rarity. But the Games provided a contrast to our sunny southern European surroundings. It was the first time I saw sports such as curling or bobsleigh in action. I can’t count the number of hours we spent on that black leather sofa, mesmerised by the technique and delicate movements of figure skaters. Just last week I found myself rewatching the ice-dancing routine of Canada’s Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue (pictured), which won gold at the Pyeongchang Games in 2018.

The Beijing Winter Olympics kicks off today but most of the world will be watching from a distance. Foreign spectators have been banned due to coronavirus restrictions, some leaders have refused to attend and calls have been made for companies and athletes to boycott the spectacle over China’s human-rights record. Interestingly, these are also the first Winter Games to almost exclusively use synthetic snow: generators and snow-blowers are busy pumping more than 1.2 million cubic metres of mock flakes to cover tracks, halfpipes and courts.

The flurry of questions surrounding China’s hosting are dominating proceedings so far. If the organisers are keen to scope out a stable place to host the next one, I have some suggestions about where to aim the snow cannons. Maybe there’s hope for ice skating in Madeira after all?

Image: Alamy

Vaccines / Austria

Calling the shots

A new law in Austria comes into effect today that requires anyone over the age of 18 to be vaccinated. It’s a first in Europe and an unprecedented move in a country where even routine childhood immunisations aren’t required. While some other European nations are requiring medical workers or over-fifties to be inoculated, no other has legally demanded it of the entire adult population. Although the government is rolling out the law with a softly-softly approach, fines of up €670 will be introduced from March. How much confrontation there will be with Austria’s sizeable anti-vax community remains to be seen; last year, 32 per cent of respondents said they were unwilling to get a vaccine. Any country debating whether to follow suit will be watching closely.

Image: Shutterstock

Media / Russia

Off air

The Russian government announced yesterday that it will close the Moscow bureau of the German state-funded broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) and revoke the accreditation of DW employees. It is widely seen as a tit-for-tat move: on Wednesday, the German Commission on Licensing and Supervision (ZAK) ordered Russia’s own state-funded broadcaster, RT, to stop broadcasting in the country because it only holds a Serbian licence for cable and satellite transmission. The Russian foreign ministry responded through a statement saying, “This step leaves us no choice other than to start implementing retaliatory measures against German media accredited in Russia.” RT had already introduced a ban on German-language programming and yesterday, DW’s Moscow employees received their marching orders. While RT has been repeatedly criticised for being a propaganda arm for the Kremlin, DW is regulated by an eponymous law that prohibits it from being influenced by the government – the German government, that is.

Image: Reuters

Economy / Japan

Work in progress

A new report has found that Japan needs to tempt about four times more foreign workers to its shores by 2040 to achieve its economic goals. The findings by a group of Tokyo-based public think-tanks shine a stark light on the predicament of the Land of the Rising Sun. Japan’s population is rapidly ageing and has been in decline since its peak in 2008.

Immigration might be the economic answer to labour shortages but it has long been a divisive subject in Japan. The strict closure of borders to non-Japanese people during the pandemic has only exacerbated the issue. When Japan does open up again, the tourists will inevitably trickle back but persuading people to work, invest and put down roots there will require the softening of legal barriers.

Image: Getty Images

Fashion / Global

Value judgements

Fashion circles are buzzing with the news that Chanel is again raising the price of its bags, which is seen as a way to further differentiate the brand from the “mass luxury” trend cycle of high-end bags that have a season in the sun before becoming passé. The price of the Classic Flap (pictured) has risen about 40 per cent since the start of the pandemic but is still a frequent sight in smart neighbourhoods. So what does exclusivity mean now? As global appetites for luxury goods grow, it’s not simply about price. Scarcity is key; Chanel does not sell its bags online. London streetwear label Corteiz tried a different approach. Its Bolo puffer jacket was “released” last week and the only way to get one was by rushing to a location announced on social media and swapping a jacket from a list of approved styles from bigger brands, including Canada Goose, The North Face and Stone Island. In a masterful demonstration of its brand values, Corteiz then donated the traded-in jackets to a homeless charity, St Laurence’s Larder.

Image: De Tomaso

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

De Tomaso

For more than 60 years, De Tomaso has been a name to stir the blood of automotive aficionados, racing enthusiasts and historians. So how do you even begin to write the next chapter in such a story? The marque’s CEO and co-principal, Ryan Berris, describes his journey from an unlikely starting line in Connecticut right to the heart of the European automotive scene.

Monocle Films / Global

‘The Monocle Book of the Nordics’

Following in the footsteps of our best-selling titles The Monocle Book of Italy and The Monocle Book of Japan, this is a thrilling exploration of Europe’s northernmost reaches. Order your copy from The Monocle Shop.

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