Unless you were trapped under a rock or hibernating for the past 12 months, it would’ve been impossible to not notice something interesting happening in the UK this year. Our Monarch celebrated her 60 years sitting on the throne, Boris got stuck on a zip wire and we became inexplicably glued to our screens to see how Britain were doing in Dressage.
It’s well known, too, that the Mayan’s calendar came to an end not a month ago and those that thought the end was nye (again!) were proven wrong (… Again!) but the sense of imminent doom among them may have sparked a bit more life into the year that became 2012. Certainly, science and any sort of logic would have defied any world-ending theories. But maybe something subconscious within ourselves would’ve wanted to make our last days worth remembering if it was written that we would become extinct…
It’s easy to be completely flippant and ridicule this logic in a heartbeat, but I’m fairly sure I wasn’t the only one keeping a small half eye out for any flying body parts hitting my window on that day. But this piece isn’t about something that didn’t happen, so let’s move swiftly on…
2012 was The Year of Britain. Has a ring to it, I’m sure you would agree… Or not. But it’s safe to say that many eyes around the world would’ve been focussed on our little island, with good reason. Our many Shires welcomed the best of the best of the world’s athletes this summer, including the Official Fastest Man Alive becoming a six-time gold medallist without so much as a blink of an eye, and a Part Man-Part Fish winning his 22nd medal (his 18th gold among which!) to become the most decorated Olympian of them all.
Homegrown talent had its most prolific summer as well. 185 medals in total, 63 of which gold, brought home the fact that home advantage can have a part to play in raising the athletes’ own performance levels to previously unseen heights. The Poster Girl got her (rather highly expected, if not wished for) gold, the cyclists reigned supreme with the world’s new most famous pair of sideburns at the helm, and a class of new heroes joined the elite among us, able bodied or otherwise.
It’s good to focus on the Olympics and see how they’ve changed the country for the better. Because they did. The economy grew by a whole 1% through the Olympic and Paralympic period, and in the words of our dear Boris Johnson “Not only have you managed to ‘Inspire a Generation’, you probably managed to create one as well!” But the Games weren’t the only thing that happened in 2012. ‘Noisy Neighbours’ Manchester City wrestled the Premier League from the talons of their Red rivals; Chelsea managed to finally win football’s Champions League, keeping Roman Abramovich appeased for a whole four months before wielding his well-used axe on the unsuspecting ‘Robbie’ Di Matteo. You also can’t forget Spain’s successful retaining of the European Championships as well, once again reaffirming their dominance over the world of football. And my personally beloved Formula One had arguably its best season yet. Close racing, a variety of cars on the top of the podium, and a fight for the Championship that went to the last race. For dedicated fans it couldn’t be described as anything less than ‘Epic’.
It’s not like 2012 didn’t have its darker side though, one of the greatest sporting stories of the last couple of decades was outed as a fairy tale. Lance Armstrong had all seven of his Tour de France titles stripped from him after in intensive investigation which culminated in a 1000-Page report of the findings. As hard as he tried to fight against it, 1000 pages seems like pretty damning evidence… Armstrong has now (finally, it seems) admitted his wrongdoing to Oprah Winfrey, albeit in a strikingly back-handed manner which suggested that he “thought it was a level playing field” Typically of the man, I suppose, not going down without a fight… Or a lawsuit.
Speaking of unsportsmanlike behaviour, we can’t look back with any reverence at the Chinese, South Korean and Indonesian Badminton players that were deliberately trying to lose their Olympic match so that they would avoid playing a better team in the next round of the competition, which was met with a sea of boos from Wembley Arena and immediate disqualification and a black mark on Olympic spirit.
Nonetheless, most years are looked back at for the good things that happen, and a lack of dwelling on the controversial or unlawful. Sure, a former national treasure was exposed as a serial paedophile, and Nick Clegg actually has some sort of power (apparently). But when we take a look back and say ‘That was the year that was’, we only ever seem to gloss over the negative side of the year in a cleverly constructed montage. We probably won’t find another sporting year like 2012 for a very long time, but until we do, we can cling onto it for dear life! Maybe let’s take the pressure off of 1966 for a while, shall we?