2016: the votes, a Bard and an Olympic summer

It is the Chinese Year of the Red Fire Monkey. Pope Francis has declared it a ‘year of mercy’. And the UN celebrates the ‘International Year of Pulses’. But how will we look back on 2016?

‘Ladies and gentleman, please welcome the next president of the United States!’

Brusque, loud and frequently controversial, Donald Trump emerged at one of his many campaign rallies to rapturous applause a few weeks ago. And yet, on her own tour, the more steady and experienced Hillary Clinton has responded to almost the same announcement. They can’t both be right. And although Clinton is still the favourite for the most powerful job in the world — which would make her the US’s first female president — the nominees will not be confirmed until July. The final election will not be held until 8 November.

But the US is not the only country with ballot boxes looming. On 5 May, London will vote for its next mayor, and the odds are currently in favour of Labour’s Sadiq Khan. In addition, although the referendum date is not confirmed, it is likely that in less than 12 months, the UK will have voted on whether to stay in or leave the EU for good.

Outside politics, the world’s sporting stars will gather in Brazil for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games — although Russian athletes may not be among them, as they are still banned from competing following last year’s doping revelations.

Meanwhile, Britain will celebrate its greatest literary hero: 23 April marks 400 years since Shakespeare’s death. Commemorative £2 coins have been unveiled for the occasion, along with designs marking the Great Fire of London (350 years ago in September) and the Battle of Hastings (950 years ago in October).

Europe will look back on another sombre anniversary — the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, which saw 57,000 British casualties on the first July day alone. By the time the battle ended in November, 1.5 million lives had been lost on the two sides.

There is much to make 2016 significant. And yet the years we remember as true turning points are usually defined by something unexpected — in the 21st century, 2001 stands out for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and 2008 for the global financial crash. This year may well be shaped by something we never could have predicted.

Back to the future

2016 will be a year to remember, some say. There will be a flurry of elections and voting in the USA, the UK, and at the United Nations, all of which could change the global stage. Olympic summers always come with spectacular displays of personal and national pride. And many of the crises of 2015 will doubtless make headlines this year too.

But for many, the year will be defined by more personal, ordinary events — the ups and downs of daily life that shape our own, private worlds. Trying to guess any more than that is a fool’s game.

You Decide

  1. What are you looking forward to in 2016?
  2. What makes a year memorable — your personal experiences, or international affairs?


  1. It is 31 December 2016. The world has changed forever. Write a short story imagining what happened.
  2. Research five more predictions for 2016 which did not appear in this article, and leave them in the Comments. Use links under Become An Expert to help you.

Some People Say...

“Electing the first woman president of the US will be the most important event of the year.”

What do you think?

Q & A

I’m too young to vote anyway. Why should I care?
The elections will still affect your life — especially if you live in London, as the city’s mayor is involved in major decisions about transport, events, and housing. The EU decision is even more significant, as the UK’s relationship with Europe affects many laws and policies. Besides, you can always voice your opinions on social media, or get involved in local campaigning. So it’s still worth paying attention!
What’s the point of celebrating anniversaries?
It’s true that we could (and we do) remember Shakespeare and World War One regardless of the date. But the world is full of history, and anniversaries give us a renewed focus, reminding us of the time that has passed, and the way these people and events still affect our thinking today.

Word Watch

America’s two political parties, the Republicans and Democrats, will confirm their presidential candidates at conventions in July, after a series of elections known as ‘primaries’.
The vote on Britain’s EU membership must be held by the end of 2017 — but many commentators believe it will be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron must give 16 weeks’ notice before polling day.
In November 2015, the World Anti-Doping Agency released a report accusing Russia of ‘state-sponsored’ doping which had essentially ‘sabotaged’ the London 2012 Olympics.
Battle of the Somme
On 1 July, 1916, British soldiers were told to walk towards enemy trenches, believing most German troops to be dead. They were not, and the months-long battle became one of the bloodiest in history.
United Nations
The UN will appoint a new secretary general this year. Ban Ki-moon’s term will end on 31 December 2016.
The wars in Syria and Yemen; the violence of Daesh (also known as Islamic State) militants; high numbers of refugees — all of these news stories are expected to continue.

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