Tuesday. 23/8/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Sticking with it

Since 1998 I’ve had a personal ritual that I repeat every four years: collecting the World Cup Panini stickers. It’s a curious hobby: I’m not a football fanatic but I am an enthusiast for print products, so there’s something appealing to me about the iconic and enduring sticker album. The 2022 version, for the Qatar World Cup, arrives on newsstands in the UK this week; it was published in my native Brazil last week. Its release has long been a key date in the football fan’s calendar.

Four years ago I paid a visit to Panini’s UK office in Tunbridge Wells to find out more about the brand’s allure. Sales figures for the albums are not disclosed but the World Cup is, no doubt, a profitable time for the Panini group, which has its headquarters in Modena, Italy. Brothers Benito and Giuseppe Panini founded the company in 1961 and, although they have many other products under their umbrella, the World Cup album is probably their most prized possession. They’ve been publishing sticker books since 1970. That year, Brazil won the World Cup; what I wouldn’t give for a Pelé sticker from that first issue. The most-wanted collectibles sell for high sums at auction: $555,000 (€556,000) for a Maradona sticker, anyone?

These days if you go to the Panini website you’ll find a hardcover album and all sorts of extra gadgets but, for me, nothing beats the original soft-cover version. This week I’ll start collecting the stickers, hoping to find all 670. In Brazil there are already complaints about the prices doubling compared to 2018 but this is one time-honoured tradition that I’ll enjoy no matter the cost.

Fernando Augusto Pacheco is Monocle 24’s senior correspondent, producer and host of ‘The Stack’, Monocle’s take on the world of print.

Image: Lesha Berezovskiy

Transport / Ukraine

Exit strategy

Ukrzaliznytsia, Ukraine’s national railway, has played a crucial role in keeping the country moving since Russia’s full-scale invasion. In the days after 24 February, the goal was to get as many people out as possible. “We cancelled ticketing, so that people could travel freely,” Oleksandr Pertsovskyi, head of passenger rail services, tells Monocle. “Railcars that would normally hold 36 to 54 people were filled with as many as 200 passengers.” Six months on, the focus has shifted to convincing those on the front line to evacuate: the railway and postal service are together offering cash payouts of €82 as an incentive. “We have introduced a few initiatives that go far beyond transportation; we’re also helping with housing,” says Pertsovksyi, adding that train attendants were equipped with tablets to help travellers find accommodation. Such partnerships are evidence of how all companies – state and private – are going the extra mile to make a difference to the lives of Ukrainians.

Read our full special report from Ukraine in the September issue of Monocle and listen to our special series on ‘The Daily’ throughout this week on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Leisure / Japan

Park strife

Huis Ten Bosch, Japan’s largest theme park, in Sasebo, is up for sale. Named after a Dutch royal residence, the sprawling resort, built in 1992, resembles a picture-perfect European city – down to the cobbled streets, canals and life-sized buildings. At its peak, it attracted more than four million people a year, who came to see the million tulips in spring and the world’s biggest illuminations, featuring 13 million lights.

The complex went bankrupt in 2003 but Japanese travel giant HIS stabilised it when it bought a majority stake in 2010. Now, after posting record losses since the pandemic, HIS hopes to offload its nearly 67 per cent slice; five other shareholders appear set to sell up too. Reports are that a deal with Hong Kong investment firm PAG, predicted to be worth ¥100bn (€730m), could be sealed within weeks. With Japan still closed to all holidaymakers except guided groups, the new owners will be hoping to ride a fresh tourism wave once the borders finally reopen.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Denmark & USA

United front

Yesterday 44 military helicopters arrived at the Danish port of Esbjerg aboard the US cargo ship ARC Endurance. From there they will be distributed to Nato bases across Europe. This could be the first of many such deliveries after the signing of a bilateral deal between Copenhagen and Washington yesterday. Because of its strategic location between Western Europe and the Baltics, the Pentagon has shown interest in using Esbjerg as a hub for the delivery of military hardware and personnel.

When the 265-metre-long Endurance first visited Esbjerg in April to deliver 300 military vehicles, it became the largest ship to have docked there. Under the agreement, Danish authorities have pledged to expand the port to allow its use by even larger vessels. The deal shows the continuing Pentagon-led revitalisation of Nato, precipitated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as Denmark’s pivotal geopolitical role as the gatekeeper of the Baltic Sea.

Image: Le Pho/Sotheby's

Culture / Singapore

Modern masters

For the first time in 15 years, Sotheby’s is hosting a curated sale of modern and contemporary art in Singapore. The auction will be held on Sunday in the Regent Singapore – the works, including “Vietnamese Lady” by Le Pho (pictured), are on public display this week – and features Asian artists, such as the Chinese-French 20th-century master Zao Wou-Ki, whose “Sans titre, entre aout et décembre 1958” could fetch up to $3.6m (€3.6m).

It’s the latest example of the art-market establishment’s new focus on Singapore; the highly anticipated Art SG, tipped to become Southeast Asia’s largest art fair, will debut in January next year. “This growing interest is partly a spillover effect from the art-market boom in Asia,” Reena Devi, an arts journalist in Singapore, told The Globalist on Monocle 24. “It’s also because Singapore’s art market has proven itself to be quite stable since the pandemic amid the exodus from Hong Kong because of its ‘zero-Covid’ policy.”

Monocle 24 / The Menu

The art of making cognac

Baptiste Loiseau on his responsibilities as a cellar master for Louis XIII cognac, plus a new book on what food cultures from around the world share: a love of cookies.

Monocle Films / Paris

Meet the photographers: Alexandre Guirkinger

Mont Blanc is one the world’s most famous mountains – and its deadliest. We asked French photographer Alexandre Guirkinger to create a portrait of this mountain and the people who dwell in its powerful shadow. In our latest film, Guirkinger speaks about the process behind the assignment and how he captured the peak’s enthralling, luring mix of beauty and danger. Discover more with The Monocle Book of Photography, which is available to buy today.

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