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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Melbourne Cup Party A Winner In Moscow

Question: When does an entire nation stop dead in its tracks for a race?

Answer: When it's Australia's Melbourne Cup, a 3 1/2-minute horse race held annually since 1861 and attracting 100,000 spectators, millions of dollars in bets and a nation of viewers on the first Tuesday in November.

This year, the favorite Might and Power, ridden by Jim Cassidy, won the race, Reuters reported.

The Melbourne Cup party staged by Moscow's Australian community Saturday was anything but "dead" as more than 200 Aussies and their guests donned racing finery, staged their own "horse" races and recounted tales of Melbourne Cups past.

"Around the world, Australian Embassies generally have a Melbourne Cup event," said Paul Myler, third secretary at the embassy in Moscow and one of the organizers for the party, one of the largest worldwide. "The Melbourne Cup is an event which literally the whole of Australia stops for."

Though not a Melbourne native himself -- "I grew up in Perth, I grew up in Hobart, I grew up in Sydney, I grew up in Canberra" -- Myler said the race affects the entire country.

"I've been in exams in Western Australia at university, and they stop the exam to run the race," he said.

Asked if this couldn't have a negative effect on students who'd bet on the wrong horse, Myler said, "That's life. They could fail on the exam as well."

Moscow's cup party has a unique event -- women straddling hobby horses "raced" according to the roll of a giant die. Each roll determined which "horse" could move forward and how many strides she could take across the Hungarian Trade center's parquet dance floor toward the finish line. The contestants' fellow party-goers placed bets -- sometimes reaching thousands of dollars -- on the outcome.

The winner of the fifth "Last-Chance Stakes" race was not Australian but Russian. Yelena Aseyeva, who works for Manezh Square developers, put her victory down to being "very lucky."

Her husband, Jason Karr, an Englishman working for Oscar Faber in Moscow, said the reason for the result was obvious:

"The most beautiful horse won."

"I'm not your horse," Aseyeva said, shooting him a cautioning glance.

"I know," he said apologetically.

Melbourne native Wayne Lotter, who works for Pepsico Inc. in New York, came to Moscow on a monthlong auditing mission. He described the race fashions as being in either one of two styles: either straightforward formal, or "a tuxedo top combined with shorts and boots on bottom."

Such eclectic style was evident Saturday, perhaps most prominently displayed by Melbourne Cup party veteran Peter Errington of Essex, England, who looked resplendent in his kilt, jungle-patterned bow tie and "Old Fart" baseball cap.

Errington's wife, Jill, who works for British Airways, was sporting a complimentary "Old Fart's Wife" cap as well as a dangerous-looking riding crop. She said she had brought a shorter one to the last party and so when everyone started asking her whether she was bringing one this year, she opted for her dressage crop "because it's 10 times longer."

Italian Fanatics Brave Blizzard

Surrounded by shivering Russian fans on the way into Dynamo Stadium last Wednesday night, Frank Cadona jokingly advised his friend Constante Marengo to stop singing Italian songs.

Then he surmised that with the punches Marengo could provoke, "It might be a good way for him to warm up."

Blasted by a heavy snowfall and subfreezing temperatures, the climate was anything but Mediterranean last Wednesday night as the Italian national soccer team slipped and slid to a 1-1 tie with hosts Russia in an important World Cup qualifier.

Cadona and Marengo were with a small group of Italian expatriates from the Moscow office of Consorzio Codest Engineering, which joined up with several hundred compatriots.

Cadona, who actually hails from south London, was born into a family of Italian immigrants, hence his name. "The Italian version is Gianfranco but people just call me Frank," he said.

"I've always supported Italian teams, even back home," he said, "With Italians, [soccer's] part of the culture; it's the way we're brought up in England.

"Plus," he said with a laugh, "the Italians tend to win more often.

Chess is Child's Play for Karpov

Chess champion Anatoly Karpov knows all about chess and children. He started playing when he was 4 years old, and became the youngest grandmaster ever when he was 19 years old and won the first of his six World Championship titles in 1975.

The 46-year-old veteran put his experience and skills to work this year in collaboration with Walt Disney Co. to produce "Playing Chess," a learning guide replete with brightly colored illustrations featuring the chess-playing adventures of Mickey Mouse kings and Donald Duck knights.

At Friday's ceremony to launch the book internationally at the Ronald McDonald Center in Moscow, Karpov said he's had a lot of experience working with children, and despite the success of Soviet and Russian masters, doesn't believe children here have any natural advantage in learning the game. "Russia has traditions, and it helps. But the important thing is to make [the children] interested," he said.

Asked what age a child can begin playing the game, Karpov said, "When you have interest you can learn chess from 4 to 10 to 12, even 15, but of course if you learn chess later, you won't be the youngest grandmaster in the world."

A group of disabled children from Internat No. 20 had a chance to meet Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Ronald McDonald. Sasha, 8, said of all the Disney characters, Donald is his favorite, "because he looks very important."

25 Years for Swedish Embassy

Stockholm-based architect Anders Tengbom made a return trip to Moscow to visit an old haunt -- the Swedish Embassy complex he designed and whose 25th anniversary was celebrated Friday evening.

"It's kept quite well, I think," Tengbom said of the modern Scandinavian structure.

"I'm more or less satisfied with it, though a lot of people don't like it," the 80-year-old retiree said. Ambassador Sven Hirdman "said today that the sculpture outside -- which I hadn't done, of course -- has done its time and should be taken away."

Present for the occasion was "Itogi" news program host Yevgeny Kiselyov who said fondly, "This is one of the most hospitable houses in Moscow."

Citing the Swedes' well-known and well-honed diplomatic skill, Kiselyov said the embassy officials have proved adept at inviting interesting groups of people to enjoy the embassy's hospitality, and "they were always inventing something special for their guests -- the atmosphere, a special ambience."

"Of course it's a simplistic design," Kiselyov said, "but sometimes you are at a diplomatic reception in a very old-style house converted into an embassy, very formal, very dull, and after 15 or 20 minutes you are just thinking of inventing an excuse to leave."

On Moscow's architectural revolution, Kiselyov, a Muscovite, said, "I'm happy to see all the architectural changes, though I can't say that I'm a big admirer of Zurab Tsereteli, for example."

Sign of the Times in Moscow?

Ever wonder about the Russian equivalent of a mom-and-pop business -- a Mama i Papa kiosk perhaps? Canadian businessman Dave Green and his wife, Viktoria, say it's hard work. Having come to Russia five years ago from his native Regina, Saskatchewan, Green chose to stay as an independent operator in Moscow with his Moscow Real Estate company.

Green was reminiscing last week at The Moscow Times' fifth anniversary party, held at the State Historical Museum.

About 200 guests received the opportunity to tour the magnificent museum, which reopened in September after a decade-long closure, and chat with Moscow Times' Publisher Derk Sauer, Editor Geoff Winestock, staffers and columnists.

Green said he hasn't been the only one of his family courageous enough to take on the challenging Moscow marketplace. He said when his 70-year-old mother, Joyce, visited last year from Regina -- population 175,000 -- "she kept saying hi to everyone on the street." Neither the size of the city nor her lack of Russian appeared to faze her.

Also attending the party was Guy Marchand of Ghent, Belgium, who is a senior consultant with the Combellga communications firm and an administrative director of the European Business Club in Russia, and, like Green's mother he's evidently adapted well to the Russian culture.

In Belgium, brewers advertise 365 different beers, one for each day of the year. But, "I prefer the vodka," Marchand said.

He's also adapted to his marriage and has been happily wed for, "four years, three months, two weeks, two hours and," with a look at his watch and a wink at his wife, Natasha, "15 minutes."