Meanwhile in Marina Bay

When The Mole arrived back from Australia, he was met at the airport by Oswald the chauffeur and was whisked to the office in order to debrief the troops. The Penelopes have not seen much of The Mole in recent weeks and there was plenty of chit-chat. And then, feeling rather weary, The Mole headed for home, pausing only to warn the night desk to keep him informed of any major excitements. After the first three races the teams know how good (or bad) their cars are and with a moment to pause and think, there are usually casualties.

With Mrs Mole out organising raffles or garden fetes, The Mole decided that rather than fall asleep in front of the telly, he would call up The Colonel, his next door neighbour and a staunch member of the Conservative Party, and they would go out for a Chinese. They have a local place they like very much, a boat which offers a menu called "An Oriental Adventure" and The Colonel always orders that in memory, no doubt, of some naughty little amah when he was out East serving the nation. On such occasions the pair always manage to work their way through a bottle or two of blackcurrant-y claret that comes from the absurdly-named Chateau Mongravy. The owner knows instantly what the order will be and so moves quickly.

"It is called customer service," said The Colonel. "One day the Chinese will take over the world because they provide exactly what people want."

"Colonel," said The Mole, "You sound exactly like Bernie Ecclestone."

The Colonel said "Hrrmph" but secretly rather enjoyed the comparison.

He was, by nature, a creature of habit and not a man given to change. He believes, very strongly, that things were better in the old days before the great old regiments were merged, before the world had women Prime Ministers and long before The Times became a tabloid, in shape and substance.

The Colonel even complained about the F1 calendar because having Bahrain before Australia was just "a poor show"

"Well get used to change," said The Mole. "We've got a lot more coming. Bernie is busy doing a deal in Singapore. It is just the kind of place he likes because they speak English but do business like the Chinese. A focal point of the British Empire, Singapore has been successful despite having no natural resources beyond good harbours, brain power and a booming orchid industry."

"Girls love orchids," said The Colonel, for no particular reason.

The Mole had launched into a long and complicated explanation about how Singapore is once again bidding for a Grand Prix and how it wants to become the Monaco of the Orient because it is losing its share of the Asia-Pacific tourist market because of development in Shanghai, Dubai and Hong Kong.

"Singapore is not very pretty and so cannot compete," said The Mole. "So they have decided to build a completely new part of town to make the place attractive. Really, it is astonishing. It is all going to be on reclaimed land and there will be an area full of landmark buildings, a bit like those flash glass structures that are going all around the Middle East. There will be a freshwater lake around which they will have three huge tropical gardens and it will all be joined up with new roads and dramatic new bridges. They have even come up with a brand name for the new city. It is being called Marina Bay. That will give Singapore the glitz it wants in order to promote itself as an international tourist destination and their aim in the next 10 years is to double the tourist numbers and triple the amount of cash they leave behind.

"Impressive numbers," said The Colonel.

"Yes, well look at Macau," said The Mole. "It's stuffed full of casinos and they are apparently pulling in $5bn a year. The Chinese like to gamble and so Singapore wants a slice of that pie. So the government has lifted its ban on casinos and is planning to build two huge gambling resorts as part of the whole idea. The biggest bid is coming from a consortium including the Sands casino company from Las Vegas and Kwek Leng Beng, the billionaire who runs hotels all over the world and is the man doing most of the construction in Marina Bay.

"And, of course, motor racing will play a part in all of this," said The Colonel. "Showing the world the delights of another city."

"I expect so," said The Mole. "I guess that the Malaysians will be the race that is replaced but they might not be complaining too much about that because I heard that they will give up their race before the current contract ends in 2010."

"So you could be going to Singapore in 2008 or 2009?" said The Colonel.

April 4 2006

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