Tuesday 27 February 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 27/2/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Snow sensation: Italy's bobsled Olympic team in 1968

Image: Getty Images

Sports / Gregory Scruggs

Move with the times

In exactly two years’ time, Italians will bask in the alpenglow of the Milano-Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics. If all goes well, organisers will clink their aperitivo glasses at the top of a rebuilt Eugenio Monti Olympic track in Cortina d’Ampezzo. Built in 1923, the 1,350m course was closed in 2008. But since Milano-Cortina was awarded the Olympics – promising to build as little new infrastructure as possible in conformance with newly prevailing International Olympic Committee attitudes – the sliding centre has generated the most handwringing. As recently as December, the committee indicated that the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton events would take place outside of Italy due to the country’s lack of an appropriate track.

National pride won out over fiscal prudence, however, as the local organising committee signed a contract this month to refurbish the Eugenio Monti track at a cost of €81.6m in lieu of paying the Swiss or Austrians for hosting privileges. Organisers are now sweating harder than a cross-country skier to deliver a sliding centre that is up to modern standards in time for test events next March. No contractor has ever built a competition-ready bobsleigh track in such a short time.

If the Italians can pull this off, Eugenio Monti will be the world’s second-oldest active track after St Moritz. As the Swiss village can attest, maintaining historic winter sports facilities is a vital act of heritage preservation for Alpine towns. They can inspire the next generation of foolhardy sliding athletes and are tourist attractions. Just consider the crowds that flocked to this past weekend’s running of the Gunter Sachs Cup on the Cresta Run, St Moritz’s 130-year-old natural toboggan track. There are only 16 active sliding centres in the world and just as many that have been decommissioned. Niche but storied Olympic sports like bobsleigh, skeleton and luge need modern facilities or they will wither in the face of less pedigreed newcomers, such as skateboarding and breakdancing. Cortina organisers should slide headfirst into rebuilding the track.

Gregory Scruggs is Monocle’s Seattle correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Diplomacy / Africa

Compromising position

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) has announced its intention to lift sanctions on Niger as it attempts to prevent the country from leaving the bloc. Niger was one of three Ecowas founding members, alongside Burkina Faso and Mali, to jointly state a desire to renounce membership last month, following censure over military coups in the countries. Niger came in for particular criticism due to the junta’s imprisonment of its president, Mohamed Bazoum, and an escalatory war of words over a potential Ecowas military intervention. But after a summit in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, the bloc’s leaders have decided to de-escalate the crisis and try to tempt the three countries back into the fold. Border closures and a no-fly zone will be immediately lifted, with other sanctions expected to be rescinded in the near future. The bloc is walking a fine line but as The Monocle Minute argued on 31 January, its breakup would only cause further instability in this volatile region.

Image: Antonie Robertson / The National

Business / Dubai

Buoyant market

More than 1,000 industry-leading yacht brands from 55 countries will showcase some 200 craft at the Dubai Harbour for the 30th iteration of the Dubai International Boat Show (DBIS), which kicks off tomorrow. The event, which runs until Sunday, is organised by the Dubai World Trade Centre and will focus on the latest innovative technologies and concept ideas in the sector, attracting visitors and investors alike.

Premier shipyards such as Azimut, Ferretti and Sunseeker will showcase their latest models. The Middle East Yachting Conference takes place at the same time, with panels and discussions on the state of the industry. DBIS is not only one of the biggest exhibitions of high-end yachting in the Middle East and North Africa, it’s also a testament to Dubai’s soft-power status as a major player in the sector, which forecasters expect to grow to be worth an estimated $481m (€442m) over the next four years.

Aviation / Global

Creature comforts

Sweeping views of the tarmac from floor-to-ceiling windows steal the show at Oneworld’s newly opened lounge at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. This is the alliance’s second branded lounge after its first opened in Seoul in January. But why begin opening branded lounges now? And why here? For one clue, note that both lounges are located in Skyteam alliance strongholds, where individual Oneworld airlines, such as British Airways, are unlikely to have the footprint to justify a lounge of their own. By pooling resources, member airlines can improve the experience for passengers, while simultaneously spreading out costs. For Oneworld, it’s a way to show continued relevance at a time when some airlines are opting for direct strategic partnerships beyond the big alliances. For member airlines and loyalty-card holders alike, it should prove a win-win.

Image: D/DOCK
Image: D/DOCK

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Bieke Depoorter

Q&A / Bolis Pupul

Sound of the underground

Belgian-Chinese musician Bolis Pupul is releasing his debut solo album next month, following a successful partnership with fellow Belgian Charlotte Adigéry on his previous release. Pupul tells The Monocle Minute how his latest album, Letter to Yu, is both an homage to his late mother and a love letter to Hong Kong.

How personal is the album?
There is a solitude in the writing process of a solo album; it comes from within myself. It is a tribute to my late mother, who passed away in 2008. As a child I wasn’t really interested in my roots but when my mother passed away, it became more and more important for me to go to Hong Kong, which is what inspired me to write it. Now I wish to go back to find out more about the city’s cultural life and club culture.

Can you tell us about the first released track, ‘Completely Half’, which includes recordings from the Hong Kong subway?
I was walking in Hong Kong, wandering around and looking for something but not really knowing what exactly, perhaps some kind of connection. Then I saw somebody and for a split second I thought it was my mum. It wasn’t her, of course, but I wanted to translate that feeling into music and also in the video by Bieke Depoorter.

Although the album is very emotional, you never forget your sense of humour.
Yes, of course. It’s just part of my personality. It comes from my dad’s side, he is a well-known comedian in Belgium and he’s very important to me as well. Having a humorous side is very important in my personal life too.

For our full interview with Bolis Pupul, tune in to the latest episode of ‘The Monocle Weekly’, on Monocle Radio.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Bulletin with UBS

ElectionWatch: implications of a potential rematch

We kick off our coverage of the UBS Global Wealth Management Chief Investment Office ‘ElectionWatch’ series. These reports take the US investment temperature in the build-up to November’s presidential election. The edition published earlier this month and authored by our guest, Tom McLoughlin, managing director and head of fixed income and municipal securities for UBS, is titled, ‘Implications of a potential rematch’.


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