Sunday, 30 December 2012

12 Events Which Made 2012

by Andrew Jones

It's nearly the end of 2012, a year which has seen heartbreak and triumph in equal measure. Sitting down to predict the events which would dominate 2012, few would have suspected that a Britain would have succeeded in winning the Tour de France. Of course there were those stories which were destined to be remembered forever; the London Olympics, a prime example. Where then is the world placed after 2012? For Britain it seems unlikely that 2013 will bring anything near the excitement and triumph which has characterised this year. The world continues on the path to a shaky economic recovery, with even more nail- biting Euro-crisis headlines to come. Sports has enjoyed a memorable Olympics with records being smashed at every turn; the previously unheard of double-triple was successfully defended by Usain Bolt. China experienced their leadership change whilst America re-elected Obama for another term of office. Therefore if 2012 has hurried by a bit too quickly, then here are a few events which you really should remember...

anti-Assad protesters
Bashar Al Assad's brutal repression of the Syrian people has never been far from the headlines during 2012. Originally Syria was an off shoot of the Arab Spring revolutions. This year has however seen the conflict develop into full blown civil war. Estimates suggest that the crumbling regime's battle to remain in power has cost the lives of 40,000 Syrians. Despite the bleak outlook heading into 2013, the seeds of victory for the rebels are beginning to emerge. December saw the USA join Britain, France, Turkey and the Gulf states in recognising Syria's National Coalition as being the official representatives of the Syrian population. The rebels themselves have made significant gains by taking the fight to the capital Damascus which has previously been the stronghold of the Assad regime. Though progress is being made, the devastation to the country coupled with Assad's continuing resistance means that Syria's recovery is likely to take decades.

The discovery of the Higgs boson represents one of the greatest breakthrough in physics of the year, if not the decade. In July, physicists working at CERN reported the discovery of a particle which possessed similar properties to the Higgs Boson, offering compounding evidence for the existence of the elusive “God particle.” The discovery of the particle helps physicists to better understand the workings of The Standard Model. The search for the particle has captivated particle physicists for almost half a century since Peter Higgs first presented his hypothesis of the Higgs mechanism in 1964. The particle being a part of Higgs theory plays a crucial part in Prof Higgs' explanation for why particles possess mass. Representing an investment of £2.6bn, the discovery if confirmed would help to usher in a new era of particle physics.

The Internet's contribution to the events of the year has been remarkably varied. From Twitter controversy, to Invisible Children's campaign to raise awareness about Joseph Kony. Though important at the time, they lack the scale and longevity to really be considered memorable. Gangnam Style by contrast, has taken the Internet by storm. PSY's song has averaged almost 10 million views per day. Recently in November, Gangnam style became the first Youtube video to clock up 1 billion views. PSY's exploits also include inspiring a variety of parodies which include Gandalf Style and Mitt Romney Style to name a few. Such widespread notoriety and popularity makes it seem only fair that if one song were to define 2012, it should undoubtedly be Gangnam style.

Rebecca Brooks and Andy Coulson under investigation
Woes which originated in the depths of the phone hacking scandal, characterised the year for the media of Britain. Selecting but a few headlines demonstrates the immense difficulties and uncertainties which face the future of journalism. The year for Andy Coulson and Rebecca Brooks will be one they would rather forget. Crucially however this year saw Lord Leveson report the findings of his investigation. Predictably the findings were filled with criticism of the media world, especially those engaged in the “dark arts” of phone hacking. Judgements were not only reserved for journalists though, but also for those politicians who regularly courted the media elite. Why might an investigation which is limited predominantly to a British sphere of influence be so emblematic of 2012? Focusing on the suggestions which Lord Leveson makes in the investigation, it is difficult not to be struck by the profoundness of his ideas. The propositions include a call for the foundation of the first press law since the 17th century. Whether or not the Government chooses to implement Leveson's ideas about press regulation, the report still represents a period of scrutiny of media ethics and practices. Coupled with recent investigations into Jimmy Saville, its is fast becoming impossible for the media to avoid the calls for reform any longer.

Felix Baumgartner's skydive from Space
(source: BBC)
Pushing the boundaries has appealed throughout history to a select few. Examining the limits of human endurance has been the subject of expeditions, death defying feats and extreme sports. Felix Baumgartner's skydive from 24 miles above the Earth's surface has demonstrated the dream to push limits is still very much alive. The skydive smashed aviation records which included the highest height ever achieved by a balloon, the furthest skydive, and the greatest speed achieved by a free falling human being. Felix endured speeds of 833mph in order to become the first human being to break the sound barrier whilst falling. Indeed many including Felix's own family were convinced that the stunt could not be achieved. The risks included falling into a “death spin” during the flight or having his blood to boil in seconds due to a tear in the space suit. The greatest service which Felix's skydive has done though, is to help inspire the current young generation which has previously lacked any form of iconic feats of space exploration. Where before, generations spoke of the excitement of the moon landings, perhaps the skydive from the edge of space will become the iconic space event for younger generations.

(image source: Daily Telegraph)
During a visit to Britain as the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney cast doubts about London's readiness to host the Olympics, citing “the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of immigration and customs officials.” If anything may be really said with certainty, it is that Mitt Romney's doubts were promptly proven erroneous as London hosted one of the most successful Olympics ever. Spectacular opening and closing ceremonies coupled with a previously unseen standard of sporting competition to produce an event which displayed Britain at her best. Where could memories be drawn from? The aptly named Super Saturday when Jess Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford won gold in their respective events? Usain Bolt proving repeatedly why he is the champion of sprinting? Boris Johnson becoming stuck midway down a zip wire? The list is endless. Everyone will have their own favourites. As a cyclist, Bradley Wiggins' success in the time trial less than a month after becoming Britain’s first winner of the Tour de France would be a personal highlight. Whichever event though, London 2012 will always be remembered as Britain's outstanding moment of the year for which nothing can be compare.

(source: ABC News)
Barrack Obama's re-election after a closely fought campaign has dominated the American political sphere for 2012. The American people chose between vastly different plans and candidates, both of whom believed passionately that their vision was the right one. Obama was able to convincingly retain the House of Congress despite being unable to prise the House of Representatives from the Republicans. Therefore analysts have argued that Obama's second term is likely to be characterised by the same political gridlock which was seen during the second half of his first term, as Republicans push for more conservative policies. Despite this Obama has vowed to talk with Republican representatives about “where we can work together to move this country forward.” Obama's second term will however have to deal with pressing issues such as continuing unemployment which rested at 7.9% on election day and dangerous economic conditions. This coupled with a rapidly approaching debt ceiling, means that American is likely to struggle for some time.

Anticipation surrounding the release of the James Bond film, Skyfall, was strangely heightened during 2012. The previous film Quantum of Solace had been heavily criticised for failing to live up to the usual standards of the Bond franchise. More importantly though, 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of James Bond films. Through 23 films, viewers have been thrilled by antics which have taken the protagonist from space stations to underwater bases. Marking the 50th Anniversary, Skyfall included a nostalgic return to the roots of James Bond, unveiling the trademark Aston Martin DB5 whilst also incorporating elements of the modern with the reinvention of Q's character. Inspired by Ian Fleming's novels, James Bond has become a worldwide symbol of Britishness which even director Danny Boyle recognised during the London Opening Ceremony. The unveiling of Skyfall alongside the 50th Anniversary, has meant that 2012 has been filled by with James Bond.

Xi Jinping
After a decade of constant growth under Hu Jintao's leadership, China's time for a leadership change has come. Coming to power in a remarkably different world in which China was beginning to come to terms with its position as a global superpower, Hu has lead the country through thick and thin. Economic prosperity has brought the country new found confidence, though also helped to bring about a widening gap between rich and poor. China's increasingly Westernised society has brought about discontent with the autocratic political system which Hu has been able to suppress, although China's new leader Xi Jinping may well find it difficult to continue Hu's methods of suppression for much longer. The recently unveiled members of Xi Jinping's Politburo consist entirely of middle-aged men, most of whom are considered party “princelings.” This transition marks the opening of a new era of China, under a different governing body who may well take the country in a differing direction.

Consistency in our ever changing world is difficult to come by. Observe the pace of technological advances, which leaves us constantly outdated. Similarly the constitution of the political world is always changing, as individuals rise and fall during a matter of months. By contrast, the reign of Queen Elizabeth II has been a constant part of the British state throughout the modern period. A reign which has seen events ranging from the Falklands war to Beatlemania. Therefore the celebrations to mark the Queens 60 years on the throne, have attracted millions of well-wishers. Recent years especially have seen the popularity of the British Monarchy grow, particularly after the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Katherine Middleton and the announcement that they are expecting a child in 2013. This has meant left 2012 dotted with events to mark the occasion including the Royal Flotilla pageant which took place in June. Indeed it was not just the British public alone who showed there appreciation, but also a host of political figures such as David Cameron and Barrack Obama to name a few. The year has been an immense success for the British Monarchy, leaving even the sceptics (well, almost all of them) admitting that the future of the Monarchy is secure.

Teetering on the precipice seems to present a pretty accurate picture of the Eurozone's current position. Despite the best efforts to drag the Eurozone out of its predicament by its leaders, the situation continued to deteriorate as the Economies of Spain, Italy, Finland and Portugal contracted. News of the Eurozone continues to be dominated by predictions of a Greek default and eventual exit. Meanwhile the Greek Prime Minister Antonio Samaras has tried to put these rumours to bed, offering a stark rebuttal: “We must make sure that we abide by what we have signed because we believe that what they call a 'Grexit' is not an option for us. It would be a catastrophe.”Currently the sentiment within Europe has focused on riding the storm until 2014, when the European stability mechanism is due to be brought into force. Though with the year failing to bring about the improvements which Eurozone leaders desperately wanted, the road to recovery still seems remarkably far off.

Amongst the reel of recently formed nations may be found countries such as South Sudan, Kosovo and Serbia. Due to events which have taken place this year, though, 2014 may well bring about the formation of an independent Scotland. The terms of a referendum would see Scotland granted leave from the United Kingdom, a state of affairs which was agreed by the Act of Union in 1707. Voters in Scotland will be faced with a simple question, whether they would like to leave the United Kingdom or remain part of it. The referendum will become the first to allow individuals to vote who are above 16, rather than the usual 18. Therefore this year may well be looked back upon by those dreaming of Scottish independence as the first step towards political autonomy.

Looking back is good fun, but onwards into 2013 which hopefully will produce events of equal value and interest...


  1. A great year!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Wow interesting facts :) I loved the jump :D


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