July 11, 2010  |  permalink

Brazil’s World Cup Will Depend Entirely On Its Airports

...and if you’ve flown to Brazil lately, you’ll understand why they’re already freaking out:

It’s official. Brazil’s top three priorities ahead of the 2014 World Cup are airports, airports and airports. The head of Brazil’s organising committee told reporters in South Africa on Thursday that his country had to get a move on and upgrade its transport infrastructure in time for the 2014 competition.

“The three main priorities we have are airports, airports, airports,” said Ricardo Teixeira, the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation. Brazil plans to play games in 12 stadiums in 2014, more than in past tournaments because so many Brazilian cities were desperate to get involved in the prestigious competition.

But most of the host cities have airports that are too old and too small to cope with the estimated 600,000 fans who will fly to football’s spiritual home to take part in the month-long jamboree. Airports are more important for the 2014 competition than previous tournaments because distances between the host cities are massive and the country’s motorways are often atrocious.

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July 09, 2010  |  permalink

The Financial Times—“Dubai: A trade to ply”

From the lede:

Old Dubai” evokes the bustling area around the Creek, where the Gulf emirate’s commercial tradition began, with dhows plying their trade with eastern ports and merchants haggling in the souks.

But in the wake of a global financial crisis that hit the city-state hard, old Dubai has come to represent something deeper – a longing for a return to roots, to the basic businesses that transformed it from sleepy fishing village to flourishing port town.

Strategically located between Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Dubai has long thrived as a trade hub. Many residents now hark back to the Dubai they knew before the city became obsessed with real estate. The frenzied development of apartment blocks, malls and business parks dazzled the world – before the property market collapsed and, along with the impact of the global turbulence, left the emirate with more than $110bn (€87bn; £72bn) of debt.

Al Maktoum International Airport appears a neat case study of all this. It opened last week with a solitary runway and cargo terminal. Windswept desert stretches around the 140 sq km complex, dotted with camels and industrial estates. Rather like the seaport developments in the 1970s, the airport seems impossibly ambitious: within 20 years it plans to add four runways and four terminals to serve more passengers than London and Atlanta combined.

Sceptics only have to look across the desert littoral of Dubai, where clusters of half-constructed tower blocks stand as embarrassing monuments to the misguided belief that property booms can last forever. Yet the airport is a prime example of Dubai reverting to the sounder economic foundations of trade, aviation, tourism and logistics – its economic drivers before the doomed love affair with property began in 2003.

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July 08, 2010  |  permalink

Richard Branson on Owning Airlines While Saving The World

(Thanks to Wendy Perrin at Condé Nast Traveler for posing my question to Sir Richard.)

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July 06, 2010  |  permalink

Meet Jim Lynch, The Guy Who Takes His Pants Off At Security

It was only a matter of time before someone decided it wasn’t worth it removing their shoes, belt, wallet, and emptying their pockets while passing through an airport security checkpoint. Why not just strip to one’s skivvies—especially considering the new generation of x-ray scanners will do it for you anyway? This weekend, I met the guy who has.


Meet Jim Lynch—the caddie, artist and raconteur seen here in full Arnold Palmer-mode on the 4th of July. He’s also the first recorded case (as far as I know) of someone willingly stripping in the security line simply because it’s faster. He tried it for the first time a few weeks ago on a flight from Reno to Philadelphia following a long night at the roulette table. “I got tired of rearranging my pockets—my wallet, money clip, lighter, and cigarettes,” he said, “And after you put those in the tray, you take your belt off, so your pants are already kind of falling down. And afterwards, you’re just holding up the line.” Hungover, and deciding the hell with it, he just took his pants off—belt and all. He was wearing boxer-briefs underneath, and designer ones, too—a Paul Smith pair with helicopters on them that have since become his pair of lucky airport underwear.

“I got a good laugh from airport security about it—she said she had never seen that before. But it’s not like she told me I wasn’t allowed to take my pants off.” (Fortunately for him, he can pull it off.) He’s since repeated the tactic on flights to and from Texas, with no one stopping him yet. “Don’t tell anyone,” he warned me. “I don’t want this catching on.” Sorry Jim, the secret is out.

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July 01, 2010  |  permalink

The Surface Interview: What Moves Us

The new transport-themed issue of Surface includes an interview with me by editor-in-chief Dan Rubenstein, who found himself stranded in Milan the Icelandic volcano shut down European airspace in April. “I finally arrived home four days later,” he writes in his editor’s letter, “but the ordeal made me realize the fragility of modern life, especially when it comes to transportation and what to include in this first-ever Transport Issue. Capacity, flexibility, convenience: All these issues today are crucial.” Indeed. Below is the interview. His questions are in bold; my responses follow.

How are the emerging cities of today developing differently than those built during the age of rail and sail? The shape and design of any city isn’t defined in terms of distance, but time. It’s never been a question of how we’re willing to travel, but how quickly we can do it. The Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti offered a “one-hour rule” of human movement. When walking was our only option, cities were only six miles wide—just enough so you could walk from the edge to the center and back in an hour. This pattern is seen throughout in history, from ancient Athens to Los Angeles: the time we spend commuting has never changed, only our means of transportation has.

So what’s the state-of-the-art in transportation today? The Internet and the Boeing 747. Digitally, we can be everywhere at once, globally and locally, while air travel is our only means of actually moving on a global scale. But I think the reason there’s been a recent resurgence in traditional railroad cities like New York or Chicago or San Francisco (a port city) is because their most affluent inhabitants don’t have to move around as much locally. As members of the “creative class,” their work is done over the Internet. By and large, we no longer commute to factories.

China, on the other hand, is all about its factories. And because we still demand everything more or less overnight—witness everyone’s bellyaching over how long it took for their iPads to arrive—that means a lot of that stuff goes by air. China is in the midst of moving those factories to its western provinces, next to brand new airports. We’re committed to moving bits and they’re committed to shipping atoms.

If you want a glimpse of what the cities of the future might look like, you could do worse than New Songdo City, South Korea, an instant city under construction that’s the size of downtown Boston, with features borrowed from New York and other cities, all aimed at residents to drive nine miles to the airport to do business in China. It’s not something we’re used to seeing in the States.

Transport architecture is often used as a sign of growth or strength. Post-bubble, do you see this trend changing? The appetite for “iconic” architecture in the developing world appears to be endless. And if everything is “iconic,” then nothing is, Dubai being the perfect example. What Americans fail to realize about Dubai is that all of its neighbors have copied it. It’s less about national pride than “build it, and they will come.” They’re high-end tourist attractions. Abu Dhabi is building a Guggenheim branch by Frank Gehry, a Louvre by Jean Nouvel (in exchange for a $1 billion licensing fee), and another museum by Zaha Hadid. That’s on top of the NYU Abu Dhabi branch and the “zero-carbon” Masdar City. Why does it need all of this stuff? Because it saw how Dubai used spectacle to capture the world’s attention. And don’t forget that Dubai is a smaller than Columbus, Ohio.

Abu Dhabi is also spending tens of billions of dollars on its airport and national airline, Etihad, for a similar reason: to bring millions of people from around the world to a relative backwater. Beijing and Dubai didn’t build mega-terminals to impress people; they built because they need the space. We’re seeing places use a combination spectacle and transportation as weapons to make themselves famous and theoretically successful. Dubai built its airport before a school or a hospital.

What can we—who live in older cities like New York—can learn from the new ones? One of the underlying arguments in Aerotropolis is that we who live in older cities need to think hard about the tradeoffs between the urban fabric we love and pros¬perity. Sooner or later, there are consequences if you fail to fix the bones of your city; London’s Heathrow is the perfect example. Heathrow is slowly choking on its own congestion, hemorrhaging flights and con¬nections to the major airports on the Continent. Due of this, the Labour government wanted to build a third runway. Gordon Brown argued it was imperative to the city’s continued success as a financial center. His opponents disagreed, and the third runway is probably dead. What now? Well, the Conservatives want to build a high-speed rail network, which is great, except for the fact that if they put a train stop at Heathrow, traffic will likely go up, because it’ll be easier to catch a flight. And then what? Now that British Airways has merged with Spain’s national carrier Iberia, they plan to move connecting flights to Madrid, which means a lot of businesses might move there, at a time when the UK economy is stagnant. Do you want those jobs are not? Spain does. My point is that those of us who live in a New York or London can’t take it for granted that all we need is a Wi-Fi signal when it comes to infrastructure. We can choke on our own success, and someone is waiting to pick up the crown when we do. Are we willing to tear some things down and start over? Or, as the mayor of London has suggested, build a gigantic new airport in the Thames Estuary instead? There are no right answers.

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June 30, 2010  |  permalink

The Secret Of Andrew Wylie’s Success

“You have to get on a plane and go to Paris and Milan and Munich and Beijing and Tokyo, and get to know the business there as well as you know the business in New York,” Wylie continues. “The way you do that is a combination of frequent visits, business meetings, social meetings—lunch and dinner—getting friendly with the people who run these companies, and getting inside the culture of each country. You’ve got to get on a jet plane every month. It’s pretty exhausting.” Though the agency has 50 employees, Wylie has done much of that travel himself. He began going to London once a month in 1986 (in 1996 he opened a London office in Bedford Square in a 1775 townhouse with a large garden) and has kept it up ever since, logging a rough total of 1,728,000 air miles to and from England alone.—“Fifteen Percent of Immortality,” Harvard magazine, July-August 2010.

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June 29, 2010  |  permalink

Morning Links

• “GOOD NEWS: Global Air Traffic Surges Above Pre-Recession Levels And Is Accelerating

• “But now, Japan’s languishing economy is getting a lift from hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists who are eager to flaunt their newfound wealth by purchasing brand name goods, from Canon digital cameras to Shiseido cosmetics. Last year, a record 481,696 Chinese tourists visited Japan, up nearly 20 percent from 2007, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. While it’s difficult to measure the precise impact of Chinese tourist spending, it is warmly welcomed by Japan’s struggling retailers. “Chinese are the saviors for us. I’ve never seen any foreign tourists spend as much as Chinese.

• “The new United Nations’ sanctions imposed on Iran on June 9th are likely to halve trade between the UAE and Iran from its peak of $12 billion in 2008 to $6 billion this year... This is clearly not good news for Dubai as the main UAE entrepot for Iran. The UAE acts as a transhipment port for goods going into Iran on the traditional dhows from the Dubai Creek. Iran’s economic isolation for decades means that its port infrastructure is old fashioned, besides marine insurance would not allow most ships to dock in the country. That means Iranian consumers have to pay more for products expensively moved through Dubai, and now subject to tight economic sanctions… If the Iranian nuclear situation is ever resolved then Dubai would be a major beneficiary. Trade with Iran would flourish, especially if accompanied by a renewal of foreign direct investment.

• ”India will unveil its largest airport terminal, Terminal 3 at Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport, on 03-Jul-2010. The INR127 billion (USD2.8 billion) structure will have capacity to handle 34 million passengers p/a and will be the nation’s most modern terminal. The terminal will be the eighth largest in the world (after airports including Dubai, Beijing Capital, Hong Kong, Bangkok Survarnabhumi and Mexico City) and has been developed in time for Delhi’s hosting of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. As such, the new terminal will showcase India’s recent economic progress. But will the Games deliver much in the way of additional traffic for Delhi?”

• “It’s big, it’s bold, and it will take several stages to complete. But the Indianapolis International Airport is on its way to developing an aerotropolis.”


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June 28, 2010  |  permalink

Dubai World Central Is Here.


“IN THE desert beyond the skeletons of villas unfinished because of Dubai’s economic slump, the home of the tallest building is preparing to open what could become another record-setter: an airport aiming to become the world’s busiest.”—“Dubai’s ambitions soar with new airport,” Straits Times, June 26, 2010.

“The worst is passed by and now we are looking for the next growth and we have to be ready for it and take the opportunity and get in before the rest of the world.  Everything we started, we are going to finish. Maybe some projects that we are thinking of or in the books that might delay for 6 months, 8 months, 1 year. But the rest is going forward.” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, CNN, June 25, 2010.

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June 28, 2010  |  permalink

And Now For Something Completely Different: Polo

(Originally published on NYmag.com, June 28, 2010)

Prince Harry fell off his horse. That’s the closest thing to a SportsCenter highlight from Sunday’s third annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic on Governors Island — the reason why Harry was in town and available to toss out the first pitch at Citi Field. He’d been streaking down the sideline looking to score when his mount pulled up and Harry didn’t, somersaulting him onto the pitch. Unhurt, he climbed back in the saddle, and the mishap was immediately forgotten by the swells quaffing Champagne on the sideline, along with the rest of the match.


Despite ending in a 6–5 overtime thriller — with Nacho Figueras’s Black Watch team avenging last year’s loss to Harry’s Black Rock — the sport in this sporting event was largely an afterthought. (Although true to form on Sunday, it was a triumph for Argentina and an embarrassment for England, in the other event.) The match was a friendly for charity, and with tables in the VIP tent going for as much as $50,000, New Yorkers like Mayor Bloomberg and Russell Simmons had finally found a ticket that made the seats behind home plate at Yankee Stadium feel cheap. (Proceeds went to Sentebale, the Prince’s charity for AIDS orphans in Lesotho).

The New York Times described the scene as “a satellite of the Hamptons,” and no doubt many of the revelers were happy to think of it that way: A frivolous afternoon in the sun spent sweating out free bubbly as fast as they could drink it.

Maybe the only one who wanted more was Nacho, who is open about his desire to popularize polo. He’s already his sport’s Derek Jeter — the charismatic captain nowhere close to being its best player — with a modeling contract, team sponsorship, and clothing line from Ralph Lauren. Nacho likes to compare polo to Formula One, an esoteric, stratospherically expensive sport with mass appeal in Europe. Perhaps a better comparison are the U.S. Opens of golf and tennis, which draw frenzied, moneyed crowds to Flushing (and occasionally to Winged Foot and Bethpage Black) to rub elbows with corporate sponsors. Befitting polo’s image, Sunday’s included Ferrari, Piaget, and BlackRock, the largest wealth management firm in the world.

» Continue reading...

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June 28, 2010  |  permalink

Dubai: western terminus of the new Silk Road

FT interview: Ahmed al-Tayer, June 24, 2010

FT: Is there a greater focus today on attracting companies from emerging markets?

Dubai International Financial Centre governor Ahmed al-Tayer: From emerging markets, from Europe, from the US. Some companies now are starting to work from Dubai to service Africa. We see this happening. Emirates Airlines covers most countries in Africa. The Chinese use Dubai as a centre for their businesses in Africa. The world is changing and it’s moving east. There’s a lot of attention on the east. We’re a centre that brings together east and west.

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About Greg Lindsay

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is a senior fellow at NewCities and the director of strategy of its offshoot LA CoMotion — an annual urban mobility festival in the Arts District of Los Angeles. He is also a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, a contributing writer for Fast Company and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

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