Friday, 21 December 2012

That was the world that was

It's a common misnomer that the Mayans predicted apocalypse. If anything, that ancient civilisation were more concerned with 2012 marking the end of a cycle. The death of one age and the dawn of another. A moment of physical or spiritual renewal. As in Arthur C Clarke's most famous novel, the alignment of the planets provides a focal point in the development of the human species...

In 2012 a transformation certainly seemed possible. As the Paralympics gained welcome gravitas in the sporting galaxy, the new human condition was symbolised by the quite remarkable performance of the athletes, o
verachieving when they had every right to underachieve, burdened more by a society's negative perception of disability than their physical or mental impingement's themselves.

The ceremonies book-ending the Olympic Games served to epitomise all that is great and all that is galling about modern day Britain respectively - Danny Boyle's opener encapsulating the eccentric melting pot of British culture, its closing counterpart a ramp down from the euphoria, a cynical treadmill of popular recording artists...and George Michael! As a yin and yang, they worked in harmony to show us both how far we've come and how far we still have to go....

As the public clamoured for tickets, I picked up two to a Mens Football tie at Wembley Stadium, the over-eager teams of Gabon and South Korea huffing and puffing their way to an enjoyable, if anything but super-human, nil-nil score line.

Thankfully, that dearth of footballing excellence was offset by a springtime trip to Barcelona, a pilgrimage to that temple of tiki-taka, the Camp Nou, in which an Argentinian perfected metronomic clinicism and I had the pleasure to witness one of the 90 plus goals he scored in the calendar year.

During a period in which English football was beset by racism and rank opportunism, Messi's humble, self-effacing odyssey shone a light for football fans to guide them through the void as if the very personification of that Olympic torch, itself illuminating the darkest back waters on its own epic journey through the country.

In film, two super heroes dominated the cinematic box office, firstly the Dark Knight and then a secret agent, but hot on their heels, and somewhat more pointedly, a determined girl from a disadvantaged background applied herself with compassion and ingenuity to conquer a 'Games' of a very different kind.

On the small screen, the BBC dramas Sherlock and The Hour won over my heart, whilst others went dotty for Downton, and Mad Men made a welcome return to our screens, if no longer to be found on BBC4, the channel which again surpassed itself in providing an outlet for some of the most thought provoking and high quality programming from home shores and overseas.  

My favourite album of the year came from the former Dexys Midnight Runners, Kevin Rowland and 'Big' Jim Patterson, reforming to release a long-player bent on self-transformation and personal restoration, not only with the assistance of some sublime soul music but a bonafide bout of comic wherewithal to boot. It was titled 'One Day I'm Going To Soar'.

The political landscape was pocked and marred by the ongoing reverberations caused by the Leveson Inquiry into Press ethics, shining a spotlight on the shady relationship between the press, police force and Prime Minister - David Cameron might be forgiven for mumbling Shakespeare's 'My Kingdom for a horse' in his dreams at night.

Meanwhile, and speaking of Kingdoms, 2012 saw the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, pageantry and pedantry in equal measure throughout the land. Yet, as the divine right of the monarch was celebrated across the UK, in Switzerland the only nod to divinity was in the naming of the so-called God particle, revealed for the first time in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Despite some scaremongering, the end of the world was not nigh.

Perhaps the spectre of apocalypse loomed largest in the stunning revelations of child molestation at the BBC. Jimmy Savile's exposure the trigger for a raft of accusations and arrests which undermined our trust in one of the nation's greatest public institutions.

A relief then, to arrive at the corporation's annual Sports Personality awards, an escape from the maelstrom and a welcome time for reflection in a year when sport provided the prism through which to view humanity at its finest. What a delight to see the purple and red shirts of the 'games makers' who, without cynicism or inflated self importance, oiled the wheels of the Olympic charabanc so merrily.

Stealing the show, however, was Martine Wright, the lady who lost her legs in the terrorist atrocities the morning after London's successful bid was confirmed, triggering her journey towards competing in that same event seven years later. If anyone symbolised our achievements in 2012 it was the sitting volleyball player who taught us to embrace both tragedy and triumph in equal measure.

While some prattled about the death of one world, NASA's Rover begun extensive exploration of another, furnishing us with the most stunning images ever seen of the surface of another world and suggesting a possibility Mars may once have sustained life. Perhaps it will again as discussion of colonisation and human existence outside of the confines of our own 'blue marble' is pontificated once more.

Considering certain predictions, perhaps it's just as well - or perhaps, like our inspirational Paralympians, we should focus on conquering ourselves before we try and conquer the world, Earthly or otherwise. Perhaps that's the way to finally complete the transformation to a 
super human species and this time, when we do, we'll be sure to take everybody with us...

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