Magazine article Management Today

The MT Diary

Magazine article Management Today

The MT Diary

Article excerpt

A weekend among the Tatars; putting a drag on the Dragon; the John Prescott hoop-la.

Just spent a weekend in Tatarstan, as one does. Kazan, the Tatars' capital, had its moment of glory in the 1550s, when the besieged inhabitants resisted Ivan the Terrible for more than a year. More recently, it has won a special place in the hearts of Manchester City supporters as the latest home of Georgi Kinkladze, who promised to be the club's saviour in the dark days of 1995 (a job soon revealed to be beyond even his considerable talents).

The only guidebook I could find described the waters of the city's lake as 'fit only for washing horses and drowning kittens', which didn't sound too promising. But it was written in 1860, so I packed my Speedos nonetheless.

There are no flights from London, so you abandon the matronly charms of BA in Moscow and take a Tatar Airways (symbol: a flying horse) Yak - one of those aircraft where you climb up its bottom from the tarmac.

But the elderly plane deposits you at a spanking new airport and things look up from there.

My excuse for this eccentric bit of tourism was a speech to a central bankers' conference: there are few lengths I won't go to in the interests of price stability. I will nonetheless glide over my 40 slides on the development of inflation targeting. As usual in conferences, the entertainment was the main event.

We were treated to a ballet version of the Rite of Spring, a tour of the prime minister's garage, with a beautiful 1950s Volga (complete with Japanese engine) and a Bentley, followed by a convivial dinner in a pyramid by the lake, next to Kinkladze's football stadium. The floorshow included the basketball team's cheerleaders.

I can thoroughly recommend it as an 'impress your friends' citybreak, especially if you have a few surplus kittens.

Shenzhen is a different kettle of carp. There was not a lot going on there in the 16th century. Indeed, until Deng designated it a special economic zone in 1979, the population was only 30,000. That decision, which allowed inward migration from across China, combined with its position just north of the Hong Kong border, was the stimulus for exponential growth. There are now almost 8 million people in a sprawling, shapeless metropolis.

It's not all skyscrapers and blocks of flats, though. The Mission Hills Hotel describes itself as the world's largest golf complex. I can't say I'm an expert on golf - in fact, it's only one up from Formula 1 in my list of least compelling sports - but even I know a course with 180 holes is not your run-of-the-mill municipal links.

For a non-player, it lacked a little something: you are not allowed to walk on the paths. …

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