TIME ebola

Spain’s Ebola Case Exposes Gap in Disease Defenses

A Spanish nurse infected with Ebola is moved to Carlos III Hospital from Alcorcon Hospital on Oct. 7, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.
A Spanish nurse infected with Ebola is moved to Carlos III Hospital from Alcorcon Hospital on Oct. 7, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno—Getty Images

Despite rigorous checks and protocols, a nursing assistant in Madrid still contracted the disease from a sick patient

When two Spanish missionaries working in Sierra Leone contracted Ebola and were evacuated to Madrid’s Carlos III hospital, city officials and the country’s health minister assured a nervous public that the hospital’s strict protocols would prevent transmission of the virus to health workers and other patients.

But something went wrong. A 40-year-old nursing assistant has become the first person to contract the disease outside of Africa after helping care for one of the missionaries, Manuel García Viejo, before his death on Sept. 25. The nurse, who has not been named by the hospital, was infected despite being fully outfitted with two layers of protective gear on the two occasions she helped treat him. She also reported to the hospital that she was suffering from a fever a full week before she was admitted to a highly secure isolation ward early Tuesday morning. At this point no one knows exactly where a mistake was made. But the fact that the hospital’s rigorous checks couldn’t prevent the nursing assistant from becoming sick raises the question: is Europe less prepared for Ebola than it thinks?

“It came as a true surprise, and a stunning one,” says Máximo González Jurado, president of the General Nursing Council (CGE), which represents Spain’s nurses. “We thought we were well prepared, and that the risk—even if it can’t be zero—was minimal. After all, we have very good, very modern health care. Spain has the seventh best health care system in the world.”

At Hospital Carlos III, the 30 health workers who had contact with the infected missionaries donned double layers of head-to-toe protective gear each time they entered the isolation room where the patients were housed. They were also required to take their own temperatures twice daily during the 21-day incubation period for the disease. It was through that protocol that the infected nurse first reported on Sept. 30th that she had a temperature of 38.6 C (101.5 F).

For reasons that are still unclear—possibly because the fever was relatively low, but perhaps because in its early stages, Ebola’s viral count can be too low for detection—the disease was ruled out. Like Thomas Eric Duncan, the visiting Liberian who presented himself at a Dallas hospital on Sept. 25, the nurse was sent home. On vacation from work, she stayed there until an ordinary ambulance brought her to her neighborhood hospital on Oct. 6 with a fever that was by then raging.

“It would have been better if she had entered the hospital on the 30th,” Fernando Simón, emergencies coordinator for the Health Ministry, admitted to the press. But that possible mistake is not the only one under scrutiny. In August, a male nurse at Hospital La Paz, which is affiliated with Carlos III, wrote an anonymous post for the blog of the Madrid Association of Independent Nursing, in which he complained that the staff was not sufficiently trained in Ebola protocols, and that it had not performed any simulations of Ebola treatment by the time the two missionaries arrived.

It’s a complaint repeated by González, the nursing council’s president. “In the case of avian influenza A, the government formed a crisis cabinet, there was exhaustive information available to the public and complete training for health professionals,” he said. “That was not the case with Ebola. According to the information we have, the staff were not receiving the kind of in-depth training they should have.” Those who cared for the two missionaries were not isolated, a protocol that has since changed with the nurse’s case.

“We don’t do many simulations in Spain, and we need to, we need to professionalize this more,” says Dr. Antoni Trilla, epidemiologist at the Hospital Clinic of the University of Barcelona. “It’s only through achieving real verisimilitude that you discover the flaws in your protocols.” He should know: his hospital has had two Ebola scares, both of which turned out to be negative. But the cases enabled the hospital to improve, for example, its procedure for one of the most dangerous moments of care: removing protective gear after contact with the infected.

But even improved training has its limits, especially for a disease so highly infectious as Ebola. “What we know from the situation of healthcare workers in west Africa is that it is sometimes actually people who appear to have taken all the precautions that fall ill,” says David Moore, Professor of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.“They may have dropped their guard when removing protective gear or in disposing of a dead body. In west Africa, they learnt that lesson the painful way.”

Caregivers in Europe are likely to learn that lesson too. “It’s unavoidable that there will be other cases like this,” says Zsuzsanna Jakab, European regional director for the World Health Organization. “But Europe—and especially the European Union—is well prepared. I would even say it’s the best prepared region.”

It may need to be. So long as air travel continues to and from the three countries in west Africa worst affected by the disease, the risk of further outbreaks remains high. With nearly 30% of the air passengers leaving Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone flying to Europe, the risk of more cases appearing in Europe is real—and growing. A study published in the scientific journal PLoS on Oct. 6 put the risk of Ebola being imported to France by October 24 at 75% and to the UK at 50%. The results were based on levels of air traffic.

It’s healthcare workers like the Spanish nursing assistant who will likely be worst affected. The unnamed woman was in a stable condition as of Tuesday evening, and is receiving immunotherapy in the form of a serum made from the blood of an Ebola patient who recovered. Three people, including the nurse’s husband, have now been placed in quarantine, with medical staff who treated her under observation, and contact tracing of friends and family. But even if she remains an isolated case, others are sure to follow. “We’re never going to see this become an epidemic among the general public in Europe,” says Dr. Trilla. “But there is definitely a risk for medical personnel. They’re the ones I worry about.”

— With reporting by Naina Bajekal / London

TIME norway

Why Nobody Wants to Host the 2022 Winter Olympics

Canadian forward Sidney Crosby (87) and
Canadian forward Sidney Crosby (87) and Canadian defenseman Scott Niedermayer (27) jubilate as their team wins gold against the USA in the Men's Gold Medal Hockey match at the Canada Hockey Place during the XXI Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada on February 28, 2010. Yuri Kadobnov—AFP/Getty Images

Hosting the Games is too expensive

Nobody wants to let the Games begin.

On Oct. 1, Oslo withdrew its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, making it the fourth city — after Stockholm, Lviv and Krakow — to have second thoughts about hosting the Games. With only Beijing and the Kazakh city of Almaty left in the running, the International Olympic Committee now faces the difficult task of choosing between two undemocratic nations with less-than-stellar human-rights records. But Norway’s decision suggests that if the IOC hopes to stem the tide of unwilling hosts, it faces an even more difficult task: reforming itself.

Why doesn’t anyone want the Olympics? Price is a good place to start. The $448,000 cost of the first modern Games, held in Athens in 1896, wouldn’t cover a single Danny Boyle–choreographed opening ceremony these days. The total bill for Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Games came to $6.4 billion, while London’s summertime turn in 2012 cost over $14 billion. Sochi, whose venues and infrastructure had to be built pretty much from scratch, rang in at an anomalous but no less heart-stopping $51 billion.

Those kinds of numbers help explain why even a wealthy nation like Norway would reconsider its candidacy. Although Oslo budgeted a comparatively sober $5.4 billion, and even though the ruling Conservative party initially backed Oslo’s bid, concerns over ballooning costs grew strong enough to chip away at the government’s support. Speaking to the press on Wednesday, Prime Minister Erna Solberg confirmed that her government would not continue to pursue the Games.

“We’ve received clear advice and there is no reason not to follow the advice,” Solberg told the press. “A big project like this, which is so expensive, requires broad popular support and there isn’t enough support for it.”

Those same concerns were echoed in Sweden earlier this year. “The city of Stockholm needed time to investigate whether the estimated costs were realistic,” says Markus Jonsson, press officer for the Moderate party in Stockholm’s city hall. “But there wasn’t enough time.”

Lviv dropped out because of the unstable conditions in Ukraine. But for the other wavering contenders, including St. Moritz and Munich, which as late as November 2013 was still weighing a 2022 bid, a growing awareness of the true costs of hosting the Games played an important role in their decisions not to compete. And on top of concerns over cost, there were fears over benefits too.

“People used to think ‘We can get sports arenas paid for by American TV revenues, so why not?’” says Harry Arne Solberg, sports-economics professor at Norway’s Trondheim Business School. “But that’s never been the case. Now they’re more realistic.”

Although the IOC contributes some funds and politicians frequently dangle the promises of jobs, tourist dollars and brand-new infrastructure in front of their constituencies, the Olympics rarely deliver that kind of return on their investment in developed nations. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Games typically create anywhere from 50,000 to 300,000 jobs, but most of those jobs are temporary and go to people who already have work (only 10% of the 48,000 jobs created by the London Olympics, for example, went to previously unemployed people). In a country like Norway, where unemployment is currently just 3.4%, that effect is mitigated even more. “The work and analysis that were done concluded that there would have been benefits,” says Ingunn Olsen, communications director for the Oslo2022 campaign. “But they would not have balanced the cost of the Games.”

Indeed, hosting the Games may only make economic sense these days for developing economies that can benefit from the very specific kind of boost that an Olympics can offer. “The real cost of the Games — the operating expenses, the upgrade to existing facilities — that will be paid off,” says Holger Preuss, professor of sports management at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. “But the infrastructure costs will not. If you need new sports facilities, if you need new roads and railways, then it’s O.K. But if you don’t need general infrastructure, you shouldn’t bid. The Olympics are not about making money. If you want to make money, invest in an oil platform.”

The IOC did not hide its displeasure with Norway’s decision. “Senior politicians in Norway appear not to have been properly briefed on the process and were left to take their decisions on the basis of half-truths and factual inaccuracies,” said IOC executive director Christophe Dubi in a press release issued in response. “For a country of such means, full of so many successful athletes and so many fanatical winter-sports fans, it is a pity that Oslo will miss out on this great opportunity to invest in its future and show the world what it has to offer.”

But some Norwegians, among others, suggest that the IOC is in no position to be pointing fingers. On the same day that the Norwegian Prime Minister announced her government was withdrawing its support for the campaign, Norwegian paper VG ran a story that detailed the IOC’s hospitality requirements as outlined in its contract. In the fiercely egalitarian country, the headline “IOC Requires Free Liquor at the Stadium and a Cocktail Party With the King” was sure to ruffle feathers among a population that, polls showed, was already predisposed against the Games. “Many of the requirements of the IOC do not harmonize with the Norwegian way of thinking and living,” says Oslo2022’s Olsen.

The IOC has come under increased scrutiny in recent years for both its perceived extravagance and its lack of transparency. Although governments contribute financially to its coffers, it remains a private organization whose accounting remains off the public record and whose members are appointed rather than democratically elected. In 2008, the British think tank One World Trust rated the IOC the least transparent of 30 international organizations, including NATO and Goldman Sachs.

IOC bosses also set the standards for who makes what from the Olympics. “If you look at the 1980s, TV rights were auctioned by the local host, which kept 90% of the revenues,” says Solberg. “Now 68% of sponsorships and TV revenues are kept by the IOC.”

Solberg believes that fewer host competitors will pressure the IOC to change. In fact, Thomas Bach, IOC president for just a year, has promised to do just that. In December, the committee is expected to vote on a package of changes that would make the bidding process easier and the sports program more flexible. It would also lower the cost of hosting the Games.

But that won’t come soon enough for sober Norway. Although Bach said at a press conference on Oct. 2 that the IOC would not reopen the bidding, he couldn’t hide his disappointment at being left with two less-than-ideal candidates. “All this shows that this was very much a political decision,” Bach he said. “This why we are feeling so sorry for sport in Norway and the athletes.” The same could be said for the Olympics as a whole.

TIME Culture

Check Out These Throwback Black-and-White Photos of Organic Farmers

Using 19th-century techniques, a photographer takes a nostalgic look at a movement many consider to be the future of food.

You know organic food has hit its moment when it gets its own version of baseball cards. In photographer Francesco Mastalia’s book Organic, the Hudson Valley farmers who raise their plants and animals without synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers, and the chefs who cook with and celebrate their produce, get the star treatment.

The geographic focus makes sense: Because of both its rich farming history and its proximity to New York City, the Hudson Valley is one of the country’s hot spots for organic and farm-to-table agriculture. But it’s the dreamy portraits in this book, accompanied by brief texts from their subjects explaining what “organic” means to them (many of them have rejected the official certification offered by the USDA), that really stand out.

Mastalia uses a 19th-century process called wet-plate collodion that allows him, as Gail Buckland puts it in her introduction, “to make photographs the same way photographers did 150 years ago” just as “the farmers in the book are growing vegetables and raising cattle the way their forebears did 150 years ago.”

That sepia-tinged approach may ignore some the innovations and forward-thinking that characterizes much of the best organic farming and cooking, but for anyone who likes their locally-grown, pesticide-free carrots with a dusting of nostalgia, Organic is tasty indeed.

TIME Travel

Copenhagen: What to See and What to Skip

The world's best restaurant "Noma" in Copenhagen on May 5, 2014.
Tivoli gardens seen at night on July 12, 2012. Jean-Pierre Lescourre—Corbis

Denmark's capital may be expensive but it's worth it

On paper, Copenhagen sounds too good to be true. For years now the Danish capital has been heralded for its design-consciousness, trumpeted as the globe’s most sustainable and bike-friendly city, venerated as a culinary destination that houses the best restaurant in the world, and held up as home to the world’s happiest people. In truth, this supposed urban utopia does have some flaws: ridiculously high prices and a tragic lack of decent Mexican restaurants among them. But from its striking architecture to its happening cocktail bars to its abundant green space, Copenhagen comes pretty close to the platonic ideal of a city.

What to See

Copenhagen - Black Diamond
View of the modern waterfront extension to the Royal Danish Library The Black Diamond in Copenhagen on April 18, 2014. Nicole Becker—dpa/Corbis

Tivoli Gardens completely lives up to its hype. The amusement park’s old-school rides (including a century-old roller coaster) are tucked between flowering gardens and outdoor cafés right in the city center, making it charming in a way that Six Flags will never be. For more modern design, check out the Design Museum, which will teach you more about the chair than you thought possible, or simply take in some of the city’s more gorgeous buildings, like its soaring Opera House, or the Black Diamond, a dramatically angled building that also houses the Danish Royal Library. The National Gallery houses an excellent collection that runs from Rembrandt to the avant-garde Asger Jorn, but for contemporary art, the Louisiana Art Museum, overlooking the Oresund Sound, is a quick 35-minutes by train away and hard to beat.

Christiansborg palace where the Danish parliament resides April 28, 2014.
Christiansborg palace where the Danish parliament resides April 28, 2014. Francis Dean—Deanpictures/Corbis

Back in town, fans of the gripping political TV drama Borgen can see where fictional Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg went to work each day at Christiansborg Palace, which houses all three branches of the national government, as well as some royal reception halls. But the city’s other famous female resident, the Little Mermaid, can safely be skipped. The harborside statue of native Hans Christian Andersen’s aquatic heroine may be one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, but it is also disconcertingly small and of questionable artistic value.

Where to Eat and Drink

The world's best restaurant "Noma" in Copenhagen on May 5, 2014.
The world’s best restaurant “Noma” in Copenhagen on May 5, 2014. Joerg Carstensen—Corbis

You might as well start at the top. Noma has been voted best restaurant in the world four times for its artful, delicious “New Nordic” cuisine, which relies solely on pristine ingredients from the region. Reservations can be hard to come by (try requesting them for lunch instead of dinner), but happily, chefs who formerly worked at Noma have been opening their own restaurants in recent years. At the casual Relæ, Christian Puglisi treats the ingredients on his vegetable-heavy menu with a gentle hand but an innovative eye, while at Amass, American chef Matt Orlando is so deeply in tune with the seasons that he changes the rustic-looking but technically-sophisticated dishes on his tasting menu almost daily. Not all of Copenhagen’s gustatory pleasures are so high-end, however. Smørrebrod, the open-faced sandwich that is the most typical of Danish foods, is elevated to a complex art at Schønnemann. And Copenhageners have been packing the recently-opened Papirøen, where stalls sell all manner of street food, from Moroccan merguez sausages to German apple pancakes. It’s a much more interesting option than the city’s one indigenous form of food truck, the omnipresent pølser wagons, or hot dog carts.

Not all of the city’s gustatory pleasures require chewing. Coffee Collective is renowned among coffee geeks, and Atelier September makes an exquisite matcha tea. Mikkeller serves up some of the best, if quirkiest, artisanal beers in Europe, and the city positively swims in personable wine bars like Ved Stranden, Den Vandrette, and Sabotøren. And there is no shortage of cozy cocktail bars either. Ruby specializes in the classics.

Tourboats in Nyhavn Canal Copenhagen
Tourboats in Nyhavn Canal on in Copenhagen on May 7, 2011. MyLoupe/Universal Image Group/Getty Images

What to Do

Much of Strøget, the world’s longest pedestrian shopping street, is given over to high street brands like Zara, but there are some quintessentially Danish jewels there too, like Hay and Illium Bolighus, both of which sell irresistible, beautifully-designed housewares. The Torvehallerne market is great for shopping of a more edible sort, with an outdoor produce market and indoor stalls selling everything from cakes to sushi. A canal tour is the most popular option for seeing Copenhagen’s many waterways, but a DIY version, via kayak, gets you even closer.

City electric bikes are for rent for visitors at central station on April 24, 2014 in Copenhagen. Francis Dean—Corbis

And in a city with over 390 kilometers of dedicated lanes, you may as well give in to peer pressure and rent a bike; it’s the most scenic way to get to Amager Strandpark beach south of the city, and the rolling deer park, Dyrehave, to the north. The restaurants and cafes of Nyhavn are thoroughly missable, specializing as they do in serving over-priced, mediocre food and drink to generally drunk tourists. But the pastel houses lining the harbor there are just as picturesque as the postcards suggest, especially on those long summer days when the clear northern light illuminates this lovely, near-perfect city.

TIME Spain

Heavy Lies The Crown for New King of Spain

Spain's Crown Prince Felipe and Spain's King Juan Carlos salute Spain's Queen Sofia during the Pascua Militar ceremony at the Royal Palace in Madrid on January 6, 2014. Dominique Faget—AFP/Getty Images

Felipe has the possibility to do far more than improve the fortunes of a declining monarchy

Just after one o’clock in the morning on Feb. 23, 1981, while most of the country’s legislators cowered beneath their desks, a young King Juan Carlos appeared on television screens across Spain. Dressed in his army uniform, he denounced an attempted coup then underway on the floor of Parliament by armed military officers intent on returning the country to a rightwing dictatorship. That act of political courage would not only bring the insurrection to a quick and bloodless end, but would cement the king’s reputation for decades to come. Britain might chortle at a prince given to dialing in distasteful endearments to a woman not (then) his wife, and Monaco might mock a princess given to body guards and elephant trainers. But for decades after Juan Carlos assumed the throne in 1975, Spain largely respected and admired its monarch. Yet even the memory of heroism can’t withstand expensive, indiscreet travels and a money-skimming son-in-law, at least not at a time of dire economic crisis. In recent years, the king’s reputation has been profoundly damaged, and with it, the monarchy’s. The abdication Juan Carlos announced Monday, after 39 years of rule, was quite possibly the best option left to him for preserving it.

By abdicating in favor of his son Felipe, Juan Carlos has tapped the one adult member of the royal family—apart from his wife Queen Sofia—who still ranks high in the public’s esteem. With a Master’s degree in international relations from Georgetown University, and an apparently happy marriage that has produced two adorably media-friendly young girls, Felipe seems well-prepared for the role of modern monarch. Perhaps more importantly, he has avoided the scandals that have plagued his siblings Elena (divorce) and Cristina (alleged embezzlement and influence-peddling), and his father (breaking a hip while on a secret elephant-hunting trip in Botswana with a woman who is not his wife). A January survey conducted by the Spanish polling firm Sigma Dos gave the crown prince an approval rating of 66% (versus his father’s 41%); 57% of those polled said they believed he could restore the crown’s prestige.

But Felipe has the possibility to do far more than improve the fortunes of a declining monarchy. The crisis in Spain, after all, is not just economic—it’s also political, with deep and broad corruption permeating every level of government. Witness the Gurtel case, in which dozens of leading officials in the region of Valencia have been charged with bribery and money laundering. Or the Barcenas case, in which a former treasurer for the ruling Popular Party has admitted to maintaining secret accounts through which he supplemented the salaries of the party’s upper echelons. That’s without mentioning the Infanta Cristina and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin, indicted for using their purportedly not-for-profit Noós Institute to allegedly embezzle some 8 million euros, mostly from government contracts.

Exacerbating the sense of decay in Spain is the lack of strong alternatives for political leadership. The prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, is a technocrat who own approval ratings stand at about 22%. The uncharismatic opposition leader, Alberto Rubalcaba, is an old-school Socialist who just resigned in the face of his own party’s catastrophic showing in the European Union elections on May 25. In fact, Spaniards are so desperate for change that in those elections they denied both the Socialists and the Popular Party a majority for the first time in the country’s 35 years of democracy. Instead, they gave 8% of the vote—and five seats in the European parliament—to an upstart, anti-austerity, anti-establishment party called Podemos (We Can) that was founded just three months ago.

And here’s where Felipe, with his 66% approval rating, comes in. Other monarchs have used their influence to lessen tensions or ameliorate their domestic political situation. Although Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej recently threw his support behind the leader of a military coup in the country, he had previously, and for many years, defused tensions in his country by forcing the military to talk with the protestors who opposed them. King Albert II more than once prevented the collapse of Belgium’s often fragile government by bringing opposing political leaders back to the bargaining table.

So imagine this: A newly coronated King Felipe announces that transparency will be his first order of business. To that end, he will open all of the palace’s accounts to full public scrutiny. (In an attempt to improve its image the palace recently announced it would voluntarily adhere to Spain’s new transparency law, but with many loopholes.) He will demand that his sister and brother-in-law, if found guilty, face the same punishment of any other Spaniard. And he will encourage all of Spain’s institutions to follow suit, to embrace transparency and adopt zero tolerance for corruption.

Would it work? Although he has begun assuming more responsibilities as his father’s health has declined, Felipe is largely untested. Many Spaniards greeted Monday’s news of abdication with a rally in favor of republicanism. But many of those same people, like every Spaniard over the age of 40, remember the night 33 years ago when it seemed more than likely that, after the briefest of flirtations with democracy, the country would revert back to the authoritarianism it knew best.

For the fact that it didn’t, Spain has a king to thank.


Austria’s Conchita Wurst Wins Eurovision Song Contest

Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst was named winner of the Eurovision song competition Saturday — a victory that took on extra political meaning amid Russia's incursion into Crimea and anti-gay sentiment in Russia and Eastern Europe

Was there ever a more perfect Eurovision winner than Conchita Wurst? Possessor of long, brunette locks that undulate down her shimmering gown, an alto that sounds straight out of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical circa Jesus Christ Superstar, and a beard that a Brooklyn bartender would envy, the Austrian contestant took the top honors last night in Copenhagen. It was a victory that thrilled the 11,000-strong audience, and not only because her winning song, “Rise Like a Phoenix,” was so very … very. To many gathered for what is often called the Gay World Cup, Wurst’s victory was also a victory against homophobia. And, not incidentally, Russia.

An annual competition that pits three dozen or so European nations against one another in a glitter-spangled maelstrom of wind machines, detachable clothing and the cheesiest tunes in pop music, the Eurovision Song Contest is exactly what it says. Held in the homeland of the previous year’s winner, the competition, in which each nation’s contestant performs a song written specially for the occasion, is broadcast live throughout the continent (and in Australia, for reasons best understood by the Australians themselves). The winner, who in the past has included pop luminaries like ABBA (Sweden) and Celine Dion (Switzerland), is decided partly by a jury made up of professionals and partly by viewers, who vote for their favorites via text message or app. Which is precisely where things get interesting. Though any geeked-out aficionado will tell you that Eurovision is all about the music, politics has a way of slipping in. This year was no exception.

“We love her!” gushed David Christley, of Wurst, in the minutes before the competition started. Though British-born and living in Holland, Christley and his partner were wearing postcards of the Austrian candidate tucked into their neon orange top hats. “It would be such a slap in the face to Russia if she won.”

Indeed, when Austria announced its candidate, several Russian organizations called for a boycott of Eurovision 2014. St. Petersburg legislator Vitaly Milonov — the same one who said that gay athletes could be subject to arrest at the Sochi Olympics if they “promoted” homosexuality to minors — referred to Wurst as a “pervert” whose presence at what he disapprovingly called “Europe’s gay parade” would “insult millions of Russians.” Thousands of Belarusians also protested, signing a petition for block her from the Belarusian broadcast of the competition.

If anything, those objections only increased support for Wurst, whose fans at last night’s competition took to wearing crocheted chinstraps meant, apparently, to simulate beards. But they were not the only reason why anti-Russian sentiment was running high in Copenhagen. The country’s recent incursions into Ukraine also played a role. Weeks before, Eurovision organizers decided that, for purposes of the competition, Crimea still counted as Ukraine. It was unclear however, which nation that helped, since the rules of the competition prevent voters from casting a ballot for their own country. So although Crimea might not, in the Eurovision universe, be Russian, it could now vote for Russia.

In Copenhagen, however, the Russian contestants (twin sisters named Anastasiya and Maria Tolmachevy) were booed during the semifinals. Inexplicably dressed in a wolf suit, Anders Lundsten of Gothenburg, Sweden, said he felt sorry for the girls. “But I also feel sorry for the Ukrainians. No one should be taken over by another country.”

Mariya Yaremchuk, the Ukrainian contestant, didn’t want anybody’s sympathy vote. In an interview with TIME, she said that getting to the final was “like getting all your happy birthdays in one day,” and she was convinced she had arrived there solely on the merits of her peppy “Tick Tock,” which she screeched sang onstage in front of a man running in an outsize hamster wheel. “Of course, as a Ukrainian girl, I am very nervous about what is going on at home. But as a singer, my main goal is to express my wish of happiness to all people. For me, it is all about the music.”

Ah yes, the music. Looking like an extra from Fiddler on the Roof, Swiss candidate Sebalter warbled lyrics no lover could resist — “I am the hunter, you are the prey/ Tonight I’m going to eat you up” — to a Mumford and Sons–esque tune, complete with Swiss banjo. Despite a hairdo that towered a good 12 in. from his scalp, the lead singer of the French boy band Twin Twin pranced around the stage, singing insistently about his desire for a “moostash,” while images of facial hair flashed behind him. Poland surpassed even that display of good taste. Sounding vaguely like a Japanese hip-hop band but dressed in cleavage-baring bodices and traditional skirts, Donatan and Cleo belted out their song, “We Are Slavic.” When they reached the stirring chorus — “We are Slavic, we know how it is/ We like to shake what mama in the genes gave us/ This is the hot blood, this is our Slavic call” — one well-endowed band member sat on the corner of the stage and simulated, shall we say, a particularly enjoyable butter-churning session.

In comparison, the Tolmachevy twins, who began their performance conjoined by their blond ponytails before separating to opposite ends of a giant seesaw, seemed downright musical. But when the votes started coming in, and a few countries — most of them former Soviet bloc — gave their points to Russia, the booing began again. At one point, the sounds of displeasure were loud enough that the presenter — Pilou Asbæk, better known to viewers of Borgen as “spin doctor” Kasper Juul — had to interrupt his shamelessly pandering jokes about well-muscled men to remind the audience, “It’s all about music and love.”

Alina and Vitaly knew better. Ukrainian agriculture students from Kharkov, they didn’t want to give their last names but weren’t afraid to say whom they were voting for. “Ukrainian contestant not so good,” said Alina. “But we love the Russians! We will vote for them.”

In the end, that love wasn’t enough for the Barbie-like Tolmachevy twins, who came in seventh. The girls had declined all requests to speak with foreign media, preferring, as one of their handlers said, “to focus on the music.” Still, it was hard not to see something more than a catchy ditty between the lines of their entry, “Shine”:

Living on the edge
closer to the crime
cross the line a step at a time

Now maybe there’s a place
maybe there’s a time
maybe there’s a day you’ll be mine



These Are The 10 Best Restaurants in The World

Spanish Chefs of "El Celler de Can Roca" Joan Roca, center, Jordi Roca, left, and Josep Roca, right, pose with their employees at the restaurant in Girona on April 30, 2013. Quique Garcia—AFP/Getty Images

Each year, fine diners, restaurateurs and food writers—I’m in the last group—try to read the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurant list like tea leaves, searching for trends, or at the very least, a coherent theme. But as in previous years, the 2014 edition, which was announced in London late last month, defies unifying logic. The restaurants that made the full list of 100 range from David Chang’s decidedly informal and unsedate Momofuku Ssam Bar, to Alain Ducasse’s paragon of plushness, Louis XIV, in Monaco. That said, in the past several years, the highest-ranking positions have tended to go to restaurants that balance at least a degree of luxury (although not always formal, none of them are cheap) with an embrace of innovation.

Such is the influence of the 50 Best that once a restaurant reaches the upper echelons of the list, its already sparse reservations become exceedingly difficult to come by. Several of the top places only allow bookings well in advance (for Noma it’s 3 months; for Eleven Madison it’s 28 days), and reservations disappear within minutes, so it helps to be online or on the phone as soon as they’re released. But if a quick hand with reservations website OpenTable or the cellphone doesn’t yield the desired results, there’s another possibility: Email the restaurant, give a range of dates when you’re available (the more flexible you are, the better your chances), and ask politely to be put on the wait list. Even the best restaurants frequently get cancellations.

Here’s a quick look at the top ten on this year’s 50 Best List. In most cases, the descriptions are based on my personal experience, but research and—the reports of colleagues—have filled in the details for the restaurants I haven’t visited.

1. Noma, (Copenhagen, Denmark). Cost of a meal for two, without wine: $600.

After losing the top ranking in 2013 (it had held the No. spot for the three previous years), Noma is firing on all cylinders these days. Located in an old whaling warehouse, the restaurant is the birthplace of “new Nordic” cuisine, which relies solely on ingredients available in region. But today, the restaurant is pushing far beyond its early days of foraged sea buckthorn and reindeer lichen. Dinner these days might start with a whole kohlrabi, filled with its fermented juice and bored with a straw, so that it looks and tastes like a coconut drink. The meal might then proceed through aebleskivers –a traditional Danish kind of fritter—brushed with a sauce made from fermented grasshopper, and end with a dessert of potato, almond, and plum purée. It sounds wacky, but somehow Redzepi and his crew manage to make it all delicious. As well as deeply pleasurable: Noma continues to offer what may well be the most engaged—and engaging—service in the world.

2. Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain. Cost of a meal for two, without wine: $390-480.

Celler de Can Roca is run by three brothers — head chef Joan, sommelier Josep, and pastry chef Jordi — who came by their trade honestly: they learned it from their parents. But it’s hard to imagine anything further from your average mom and pop cooking. In what may very well be the most beautiful dining room in Europe, a Roca meal dazzles with its wizardry (a starter called Eat The World that encapsulates, in five distinct bites, the tastes of the five different cuisines; a dessert called Messi’s Goal, that recreates, with a candied pitch, flying white chocolate balls, and a plateside iPod playing the roars of the crowd, what it feels like when Barcelona’s soccer hero Lionel Messi scores), while remaining firmly rooted in the flavors of the Mediterranean. Josep brings lucky guests on a tour of his cellar, where favorite wines have been singled out for multi-sensory treatments.

3. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy. Cost of a meal for two, without wine: $360-525.

Behind a stately exterior, the world’s most emotive chef, Massimo Bottura, cooks flights of fantasy and memory. The first sign that this is not your ordinary upscale Italian restaurant comes from the abstract contemporary paintings on the wall, but the art continues on the plate. The mortadella sandwich of every Italian child’s memory is turned into an impossibly light mousse, a Magnum ice cream bar becomes a sophisticated, foie-gras stuffed bite. And like his spectacular lacquered eel, which Bottura serves with saba and polenta to represent the apples and corn the eel would encounter on its way up the nearby Po river, his dishes are made more evocative by the stories that accompany them.

4. Eleven Madison Park, New York, USA. Cost of a meal for two, without wine: $450.

In this hushed yet theatrical dining room, Swiss-born chef Daniel Humm takes the whole farm-to-table movement, imbues it with a bit of French savoir-faire, and, like an alchemist, comes out with the quintessential New York restaurant. Indeed, the sense of place here comes not just from the locally grown and produced ingredients, but from Humm’s knowing nod to New York’s culinary culture. Pristine carrots, for example, get turned into a lightly whimsical take on steak tartare; sturgeon (brought to the table under a smoke-filled cloche) is served with the restaurant’s take on an everything bagel. Excellent service — graceful, attentive, modern — adds to the sense of supreme well-being.

5. Dinner. London, England. Cost of a meal for two, without wine: $230.

Heston Blumenthal took his fascination with English culinary history and turned it into something unexpectedly interesting for the rest of us. At the fashionable Dinner, located at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in London and overseen by chef Ashley Palmer-Watts, traditional (if quirkily named) dishes like Salamugundy and meat fruit are transformed into modern-day marvels (the latter into a light but rich chicken liver parfait, made up to look exactly like a mandarin orange) Is it indeed the U.K.’s best restaurant? Probably not. But as history lessons go, this one goes down extremely easily.

6. Mugaritz, Errenteria, Spain. Cost of meal for two, without wine: $470.

Andoni Luis Aduriz is the Aristotle of contemporary cuisine, a philosopher-king tucked away in the rolling hills of the Basque Country, about 20 minutes drive from San Sebastian. Cerebral, technically accomplished dishes like the Bloody Mary tomato (which looks and feels like a fresh tomato, but tastes of the cocktail), or his famous potato stones (whose river rock appearance gives the diner the uncomfortable sensation of being about to break her teeth), he manages to consistently surprise and delight his customers, all while maintaining a deep, almost pantheistic reverence for the nature around him.

7. D.O.M. Saõ Paulo, Brazil. Cost of meal for two, without wine: $400.

Given the media’s predilection for depicting chef Alex Atala standing thigh-deep in his much-loved Amazon, bare-chested and draped with a giant fish like some kind of latter-day Tarzan, it comes as something of a surprise that his restaurant is so refined. But the delicacy of signature dishes, like a pappardelle made from hearts of palm or a ceviche crafted of indigenous flavors, belies the wallop of their unusual flavors — and has helped Brazilians discover the bounty of their native terroir. Even the Amazonian ants he serves, redolent of lemongrass and placed gently atop a cube of pineapple, seem elegant.

8. Arzak. San Sebastian, Spain. Cost of meal for two, without wine: $530.

Juan Mari Arzak is one of the great geniuses of Spanish gastronomy, among the first to bring modern techniques and flavors to bear on regional cuisine — in his case, that of his native Basque Country. The kitchen of his restaurant, which is housed in a quaint-looking building but is surprisingly sleek inside, is now run largely by his daughter Elena. She continues the Basque-inflected innovation, with dishes like “waves” (they’re created with molds) of local spider crab and anise or monkfish cooked in a balloon of edible green papier-máche that manage to feel both regionally grounded and whimsical.

9. Alinea, Chicago, Illinois. Cost of a meal for two, without wine: $420.

Grant Achatz did a brief stint at Ferran Adrià’s elBulli, and ever since has been out avant-garding what was once the most avant-garde restaurant in the world. The 18-or-so-course tasting menu carries titles like “Scallop Acting Like Agedashi Tofu” and the tableware — some of it lovely, some of it looking like it was lifted from the spike-and-pincer collection of the Spanish Inquisition— is tailor-made for each course. Dinner in this Chicago restaurant consists of carefully-scripted experiences more than dishes: one course requires the diner to fold her own ravioli from a sheet of tomato pasta that, moments before, looked to be a decorative flag, while the final dessert, a mix of dark chocolate and about a hundred other things, is painted, drizzled and scattered by a chef directly on the table itself.

10. The Ledbury, London, England. Cost of a meal for two, without wine: $270.

Among the top ten restaurants, the Ledbury is probably the most classical, which is to say that its chef, Australian-born Brett Graham, is more interested in pleasure than wizardry. The dishes served in this London restaurant may not be as visually striking as in other places, but their flavors are deep and layered. Case in point: a buffalo milk curd, spread creamily onto crisp toasts that are topped with Iberico ham and served with a rich onion broth. Or grilled mackerel, its oily brine mellowed with cured avocado and brightened with shiso. And with a chef who hunts his own wild birds, this is the place in London to try game.


Noma’s Best Restaurant Win Tastes Pretty Sweet To Chef Rene Redzepi

Rene Redzepi Noma Restaurant
Danish chef Rene Redzepi in London on April 29, 2013. Lefteris Pitarakis—AP

After losing the title last year, Copenhagen's Noma has once again been named the best restaurant in the world. “This is better than the three previous wins combined,” Redzepi tells TIME

As late as the afternoon of April 28, Rene Redzepi was warning his staff they would probably drop in the rankings of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, which were to be announced that evening, by making cryptic comments about Isaac Newton. “The rules for this competition were established over three hundred years ago,” he said at lunch with his staff. “What goes up must come down.”

But gravity, it seems, doesn’t apply to restaurants. After losing the top ranking in 2013, his Copenhagen restaurant Noma last night regained the status it had held during the three years prior. When Redzepi and his team mounted the stage of London’s Guildhall last night to claim the prize of best restaurant in the world, the joy was palpable. “It doesn’t even compare,” the 36-year-old chef said of his comeback, in an interview with TIME. “This is better than the three previous wins combined.”

The victory gave Redzepi and his team a much-needed sense of redemption. But it also promised a return to the peculiar status and opportunities that come with being number one. Although the World’s 50 Best list started twelve years ago as a lark—the founders of Restaurant magazine were, in one late-night brainstorming session, trying to come up with ways to attract attention to their publication—it has grown to become one of the most influential forces in modern gastronomy.

For the staff at Noma, returning to the top position has been especially rewarding after a difficult year. In February of 2013, the restaurant experienced an outbreak of norovirus that, although quickly controlled, prompted a deluge of gleeful reports in the media, as well as hate mail and death threats. Two months later, the restaurant lost its top ranking. And in the same period, its head chef and several sous chefs, all of whom had been with the restaurant for years, left to strike out on their own.

“For a while, it felt like there was only bad news out of Noma,” Redzepi says.

But the hardships and criticism may have spurred the restaurant’s crew to greater heights. For many chefs and critics who dined at Noma in the last year, it was their best meal ever at the restaurant. Their number includes David Chang, chef and owner of the Momofuku restaurants in New York, Toronto, and Sydney. “I knew right then that they were going to get number one again,” he told TIME after dinner there in August. “You could taste the anger.”

Unlike the Michelin guide, which relies on the assessment of professional inspectors to award its stars, the 50 Best list is decided by industry peers. Divided into 26 regional juries, more than 900 chefs, food writers, and gourmands vote for best restaurants in which they have dined over the previous 18 months. That structure makes the list particularly valuable to chefs, for it is flexible enough to respond quickly to changes in the dining scene (witness London’s Clove Club, which opened exactly a year ago, enter at number 87 on the Top 100 list). But even more importantly, it provides a form of recognition from their peers that many chefs crave—and, once earned, want to maintain. “The list has become incredibly important to them,” says Swedish food critic Mattias Kroon. “It’s heroin for chefs.”

There are also financial reasons for the addiction. At a breakfast the morning of the awards ceremony, Joan and Josep Roca, chef and sommelier of Spain’s Celler de Can Roca, which won the title in 2013, talked about its impact. In the twelve months following their victory, they received 121,000 reservation requests, and more than 1200 journalists visited the restaurant to write stories about it. They received a sponsorship from Spain’s BBVA bank that will allow them to close their restaurant in the Catalan city of Girona for a few months later this year, and re-open it as a pop-up in a series of Latin American cities.

Opportunities like that are beginning to bring around even France’s chefs, who have typically disdained the list for its populism, and for rewarding trendiness rather than quality. (No French restaurants made this year’s top 10, though Argentina-born Mauro Colagreco’s restaurant Mirazur, on the French Mediterranean, came in at number 11.) “They still don’t like it,” says Alexandra Michot, a food writer who was until recently restaurant critic for Le Figaro. “But they’re starting to see that a high-ranking fills seats.” Further to the south, chef Quique Dacosta, whose eponymous restaurant in Denia, Spain came in at number 41, agrees. “You may or may not like everything about how the list works,” he says. “But there’s no denying how important it’s become for getting diners, especially international ones.”

In other words, the slight drop-off in reservation requests that Noma has experienced in the past few months has likely already been reversed by the time of this article’s publication (the flood of visitors had already crashed the restaurant’s website twice in the 12 hours after the announcement). And the victory will give added ballast to projects already underway, like the opening of a Noma pop-up in Tokyo in January and February of 2015 which, Redzepi believes, will now likely sell out.

Wielding its increasing clout, the organizers of this year’s event refused to leak the results to journalists covering the event, which meant that, unlike in the past, neither they, nor the winning chefs they were seeking to interview on deadline, had any idea who would take the title. So Redzepi was truly surprised last night when, trembling with emotion, he led his crew to the stage. “Guys,” he said, “We did it.”

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