So, it’s the end of the year. It’s been a bit of a funny one, in many ways. We started with a drought, and ended it the wettest year on record. On a personal note, it’s the year I was elected Deputy Mayor of Evesham, and I’ve enjoyed every part of it. I’m looking forward to the forthcoming year even more. But it hasn’t all been good: the weather caused massive disruption to several of our festival events with the wind meaning no balloons at the balloon festival and the rain resulting in too much river for the river festival. A combination of last winter’s ice and the summer’s rain led to lumps of masonry falling off the Bell Tower. Flood water has been back onto the roads and back into premises on the aptly-named Waterside, although we’ve been fortunate that we didn’t come anywhere near the devastating floods of five years ago.
Long to reign over us
Nationally, it’s been a historic year. A British monarch celebrated 60 years on the throne for only the second time in history, and the Olympics returned to Britain for only the third time. We’ve had a lot to celebrate, although coverage of the Queen’s diamond jubilee was some of the most shockingly inept broadcasting I’ve ever seen from the BBC. Not that the BBC was entirely alone in that respect; the inanity of celebrity comperes at the jubilee concert in The Mall was rivalled only by some performers who don’t know the difference between a birthday and a jubilee. Not that it matters, really, the monarchy has probably never been as popular among the general public.
A potential Romneyshambles
Although we would never have admitted it at the time, a lot of us privately might have agreed with Mitt Romney’s comments about London not being quite ready for the Olympics. Media stories about the army having to be roped in to cover for G4S’s inability to recruit and train staff, and negative publicity about some of the more stupid branding rules associated with the event, weren’t exactly the best build-up. Add to that the fact that the great British public loves a good moan, and everything was in place for a gold medal performance in self-flagellation. Or possibly a silver medal, because someone else would undoubtedly have beaten us better than we could beat ourselves.
It didn’t happen that way, of course. I had an inkling of how big it was going to be when the Olympic flame made its way through Evesham. I have honestly never seen the town centre so full. As I made my own way to the High Street, it seemed as if the entire population of the town was heading the same way. Every last vantage point was taken, with the crowds several layers deep.
Be not afeard: the isle is full of noises
I wasn’t in Evesham when the Olympics actually started. Instead, I watched the opening ceremony in a log cabin in Scotland, at the end of a family holiday. Again, it could so easily have gone wrong. Olympic opening ceremonies of the past have varied from the turgid to the bombastic, and everyone knew we didn’t have the budget to compete with Beijing. But Danny Boyle’s bizarre combination of Shakespeare, JK Rowling, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a flock of live sheep, Mr Bean, NHS patients bouncing on their beds, Dizzy Rascal, the Queen and Tim Berners-Leee – all soundtracked by those guys who wrote the song which goes “lager lager lager lager lager lager” – was an audacious triumph.
The games themselves weren’t half bad, either. No, that kind of British understatement just won’t do. They were absolutely, stokingly, stupendously brilliant. Even the BBC managed to redeem themselves from their jubilee disaster by getting their coverage spot on. Some might argue that this is due to the unique way in which the BBC is funded, but I put it down to the fact that sport is one of the few areas of programming that is still run by people who know what they’re talking about. However you look at it, though, even the BBC would have struggled to make the games look good if the competitors hadn’t produced the goods. But produce they did. The best performance by a British Olympic squad (please, no “team GB”) for over a century, and even when it wasn’t the Brits winning it was our favourite global superstars. And I did what I have been telling myself I would do, ever since I first saw the Olympics on TV, and went to see them on home turf. Not at the stadium (missed out on the ballot for that), but at the triathlon in Hyde Park. It was a great day out, topped off by a British victory.
There were other sporting achievements, too, of course. Bradley Wiggins became the first British winner of the Tour de France, and Chelsea became the sixth English winners of the European Cup – itself a record for any one country. Incidentally, Bayern Munich have now lost in the final to three different English teams. We’ll gloss over the record of the England team in the European Championships.
Guns and posers
Royalty and sport provided the highlights, and the weather the main lowlights. Over in the US, yet another mass killing gave NRA spokesman Wayne LaPieree the opportunity to claim gold medal for sheer, utter stupidity. But 2012 will also be noted for an unprecedented musical achievement. Never before has a Korean artist so much as troubled the UK charts, let alone approached the top of them. But a song poking fun at the aspirations of a posh Seoul suburb became not only the most viewed video ever on Youtube, but also the soundtrack to a thousand parodies and a million embarrassing dad-dance moves. Oppan Gangnam seutayil.