Friday 17 March 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 17/3/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Ahead of the Games

This week the countdown to the lighting of the Paris 2024 Olympic flame ticked under 500 days. This was accompanied by the rumbles of a storm of discontent. There are complaints about ticket prices and fears that the planned opening ceremony on the river is a ludicrous, even dangerous, folly (as one public intellectual has harrumphed, it would be an act of “criminal madness”). There are also concerns that public transport will be overwhelmed; this week, Le Monde noted that Paris, with a population of about two million, will have to shift more than seven million visitors around.

It is my contention, however, that the sceptics should wind it in. Hosting an Olympics is great. Similar grizzling foreshadowed London 2012 (pictured), almost all of which was triumphantly contradicted. The Games were excellent fun and a fantastic advertisement for London: there was a significant boost in tourism in the months that followed (the first quarter of 2013 was up 4.2 per cent on the year before). Though London 2012 has become annoyingly sentimentalised in certain circles (where it is regarded as the last decent thing that happened in the UK), it was a good thing nevertheless.

This is the eternal cycle of the Olympics: resented before they happen, enjoyed while they’re occurring, fondly remembered afterwards, to the degree that cities keep volunteering again (2024 will be the third time for Paris). If the French capital should be concerned about anything, it is the inevitability of the Games being disrupted by demonstrations – but even that’s not really a problem. A city stages the Olympics to showcase itself to the world and there is little more definitively Parisian than people taking indignantly to the streets. Indeed, organisers should embrace this splendid municipal tradition of dissent. Protest should be celebrated in the Paris opening ceremony, much as the NHS was in London’s.

Andrew Mueller is Monocle’s contributing editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Indonesia & Singapore

City limits

Indonesia’s president, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, arrived in Singapore yesterday to join its prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong (pictured, on right, with Widodo), on a leader’s retreat, an annual meeting that the neighbouring nations take turns to host. The issues discussed ranged from renewable energy to regional security but at the top of the agenda was investment into Nusantara, the ambitious planned city that Jokowi hopes to inaugurate as Indonesia’s new capital in 2024. Jokowi is keen to raise extra funds for the project; with just 20 per cent of its cost to be shouldered by the Indonesian government, outside investment is crucial. While Lee promised that Singapore would contribute “knowledge-sharing” and “joint R&D activities”, and that entrepreneurs and companies from the country would be encouraged to attend a Nusantara investors’ forum later this year, he stopped short of committing any money. There will have to be a few more fund-raising rounds before Jokowi can cut the ribbon.

Image: Getty Images

Business / Japan

Electric avenues

Japanese car-makers have enjoyed global success with their petrol-powered models for decades but they are now lagging behind their US, Chinese and German competitors in the race towards electrification. This week, to make up lost ground, Honda announced a ¥90bn (€639m) investment in electric-vehicle (EV) production at its three factories in Ohio. Last summer it also launched a partnership with South Korean multinational LG to co-build a new manufacturing centre for EV batteries in the US.

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi has decided to invest up to ¥1.8trn (€12.7bn) in its EV business, while working towards going fully electric by 2035. According to a survey by automotive forecasters Marklines, Honda and Toyota came 26th and 27th, respectively, in the global EV sales ranking last year, with just 0.4 per cent and 0.3 per cent share of the market. To regain global competitiveness, Japan’s car-makers need to put their foot down on electric investment.

To read more about the possibilities and challenges of the automotive industry’s shift to EVs, read our special survey on the future of the car, out now in Monocle’s March issue.

Image: Portugal Fashion / Ugo Camera

Fashion / Portugal

Source material

Porto is hosting the 52nd edition of Portugal Fashion this week with a display of autumn/winter womenswear collections inside a former Fiat dealership. The event, which is running until tomorrow, features 38 presentations from designers such as Marques’Almeida (pictured), Ernest W Baker and Judy Sanderson, a South African native who started her Porto-based label in 2019. The brands proudly showed many pieces produced locally.

Having established itself as one of Europe’s main fashion-manufacturing hubs, Portugal’s textile and clothing industry saw double-digit growth in 2022 with exports exceeding €5bn. Some of the items on show were made with eco-friendly fabrics from leading firms such as Tintex and Valérius. “The Portuguese textile industry is at the forefront of sustainable fashion,” says Manuel Serrão, director of industry association Selectiva Moda. With Italy, France and the US registering a 40 per cent increase in purchases of Portuguese-made clothes since 2019, the industry has its future success all sewn up.

Image: Axiom

Design / USA

Dark suit of the moon

Nasa has unveiled a new spacesuit design. Made by Texan company Axiom Space, it will be worn by astronauts as part of the Artemis III mission, which is aiming for the first manned lunar landing since 1972 and is currently scheduled for 2025. The new suit is designed to be more flexible and easier for astronauts to move in; it is the first dramatic change in the garment’s technology in 40 years.

It is also built to better withstand the harsh environment of the moon’s south pole and includes tools to navigate the lunar surface. The prototype presented to the public (pictured) has a black covering layer with blue and orange details – an underwhelming appearance when compared with the bright designs of the past. But Axiom Space stressed that the final version will be white (in order to effectively reflect heat), which will be a small step towards ensuring that astronauts continue to capture people’s imagination.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Hollyhock House, Los Angeles

Christopher Lord visits one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most impressive Californian creations: the first work of modern US architecture to make it onto Unesco’s World Heritage list.

Monocle Films / Turin

The new urban rowers

We wake up bright and early to meet creative director Luca Ballarini at the Circolo Canottieri Caprera, a rowing club on the banks of the river Po in Turin. We follow his slender boat and glide along the river beside charming palazzi, castles and bridges, while the rest of the city comes to life.


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