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Events to Shake, or Gently Rattle, the World in 2021

Tokyo will host the first postponed Olympic Games in modern history from July 23 to Aug. 8. Credit Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times
Tokyo will host the first postponed Olympic Games in modern history from July 23 to Aug. 8. Credit Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times

Last year’s global itinerary, published in December 2019, looked forward to sundry worldwide events that were expected to shape 2020: in Tokyo, the most costly Summer Olympics in history; in Dubai, the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East; in Brussels, a 75-meter-long “flower carpet” made with over 500,000 blossoms.

Boy, did we get it wrong. As the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe, health regulations and travel restrictions prohibited large group gatherings in most countries, forcing many events to be canceled or postponed until 2021.

And yet we showed a remarkable resilience in our isolation. Take, for instance, the protests against police brutality that erupted around the world after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. Or the Royal Ascot horse races in Berkshire, England, which were held in June, although Queen Elizabeth did not attend for the first time in her 68 years as sovereign. Or even the Tokyo Marathon, held in March, which pressed on while restricting participation from the original 300,000 runners who had applied to only about 200 elite athletes, a move the marathon’s organizers are considering again for the 2021 race.

Thus, the coming year’s international agenda reflects both the impact of the lockdown and the belief that things will eventually return to normal. You’ll see events postponed from 2020, biennial sporting and arts events now scheduled right on top of one another, and new, entirely digital versions of previously face-to-face affairs. Onward, bravely, we go.

The consumer electronics show — a Las Vegas staple with keynote speakers, live demonstrations and chances to network — will be online only in 2021. Credit Alex Welsh for The New York Times
The consumer electronics show — a Las Vegas staple with keynote speakers, live demonstrations and chances to network — will be online only in 2021. Credit Alex Welsh for The New York Times


UNITED STATES, Jan. 6-9: A Las Vegas mainstay since 1979, CES (Consumer Electronics Show) will for the first time be online only, replete with keynote speakers, live demos and digital networking opportunities — and a promise to its more than 170,000 virtual attendees that it will return to the Strip in 2022.

AUSTRALIA, Jan. 18-31: Tennis players arriving for the Australian Open can avoid a 14-day quarantine. Five bio-secure bubbles will be opened six weeks before the tournament begins, allowing players to acclimatize and train. Beware, however: At the United States Open this past summer, Benoît Paire of France tested positive for Covid-19 while inside such a bubble just before the tournament began.

UNITED STATES, Jan. 28-Feb. 3: Having been given lemons, the Sundance Film Festival will attempt to make cinematic lemonade. Though in recent years it has typically hosted over 100,000 film industry insiders and hangers-on in the fashionable ski town of Park City, Utah, the festival in 2021 will use social distancing requirements as an opportunity to democratize itself, making a curated version of its programming available to the public in at least 20 movie theaters in cities across the United States and perhaps beyond.

SWITZERLAND, Week of Jan. 25: What does a digital Davos look and feel like? Much less private-jet fuel will be burned, for one thing. And only high-level “Davos Dialogues,” convened digitally, will occur for now, giving organizers time to decide on a safe date for world leaders to gather in person, when their modest agenda will be to “design a common recovery path and shape the ‘Great Reset’ in the post-Covid-19 era.”

Participants at the World Economic Forum’s meeting in Davos, Switzerland, last January. Next month’s iteration will offer digital-only “Davos Dialogues.” Credit Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Participants at the World Economic Forum’s meeting in Davos, Switzerland, last January. Next month’s iteration will offer digital-only “Davos Dialogues.” Credit Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


GERMANY, Feb. 11-21: One small step for an international film festival, one giant leap for gender equality. The Berlin Film Festival will become the first such festival to define its performance prizes in a gender-neutral manner, eliminating the categories of best actor and best actress and awarding its coveted Silver Bears for “best leading performance” and “best supporting performance.”

SOUTH KOREA, Feb. 26-May 9 [postponed from Sept. 4-Nov. 29, 2020]: The Gwangju Biennale, which calls itself the oldest and largest art biennial in Asia, was originally set to focus on “the spectrum of the extended mind through artistic and theoretical means” with its 2020 theme, “Minds Rising, Spirits Tuning.” Fast forward months later to a time of socializing on Zoom, FaceTime or Skype, and the theme takes on a whole new meaning.


UNITED STATES, March 9 [postponed from July and October 2020]: Seven years after founding Theranos, a private company that promised to revolutionize medical lab testing, Elizabeth Holmes and later her sometime romantic partner Ramesh Balwani, the company’s chief operating officer, are to stand trial on more than 10 charges of fraud. Witnesses may include former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, Rupert Murdoch of News Corp and former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Theranos had promised to shake up the entire lab industry, making blood tests much easier and less expensive than traditional methods.

INDIA, March 29-31: The Sikh festival of Hola Mohalla is a three-day celebration of martial arts in which fighters participate in military exercises and mock combat, demonstrating skills such as swordsmanship and horseback riding. The festival originated in the time of the Sikh guru Gobind Singh, who held the first such event in the Punjab city of Anandpur in 1701. After all the fighting, participants will engage in more melodic maneuvers, including reciting poetry and singing sacred hymns.


UNITED STATES, April 25 [postponed from Feb. 28, 2021]: The entertainment industry’s award shows will be playing a game of musical chairs: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will host its 93rd Oscars ceremony in April, two months later than usual, in order to extend the eligibility period for films forced to push back their releases because of the Covid-19 outbreak. The Golden Globes, typically held in the first week of January, will be delayed until Feb. 28, and the EE British Academy Film Awards — the BAFTAs, often considered a rough bellwether for the Academy Awards — will be moved from Feb. 13 to April 11.


CHINA, sometime in May: Universal is to open its fifth theme park, in Beijing. With seven anticipated attraction areas — including Minion Land, Kung Fu Panda Land of Awesomeness and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — and Alibaba-supported facial recognition technology for entry and ticketing, there’s only one question: After the coronavirus subsides, will the expected 10 million or more annual visitors still show up?

THE NETHERLANDS, May 18-22: Start the clock! The Eurovision Song Contest will take place at Rotterdam’s Ahoy Arena, which in 2020 was transformed into an emergency hospital for Covid-19 patients. Although the rules will require countries to submit new songs, many have opted to retain the performers they originally selected for this year’s canceled contest.

ITALY, May 22-Nov. 21 [postponed from May 23-Nov. 29, 2020]: The delayed opening of the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, overseen this year by Hashim Sarkis, may represent the beginning of a post-pandemic logjam in the art world. Meanwhile, the 2021 edition of the Venice Biennale, arguably the world’s most important art event, has already been postponed to 2022, meaning it will overlap with Documenta, a German art exhibition held once every five years that is scheduled for June through September 2022 and the Biennale de Lyon, which was postponed until September 2022.

INDIA, May: What’s the remedy for a year in lockdown? For some, it might be the world’s longest luxury bus ride. The “Bus to London” will depart from Delhi and visit 18 countries in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Europe, traveling 12,427 miles in 70 days as it wends its way to London.

Brazilian players raising the championship trophy after winning the Copa América soccer tournament in 2019. Credit Luis Acosta/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Brazilian players raising the championship trophy after winning the Copa América soccer tournament in 2019. Credit Luis Acosta/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


COLOMBIA AND ARGENTINA, June 11-July 11 [postponed from June 12-July 12, 2020]: Soccer fans, prepare for a spectacular summer. The oldest international soccer tournament, the Copa América, will be played concurrently with the UEFA European Championship. The women’s European Championship has, as a result, been moved to 2022.

FRANCE, June 26-29: It was meant to be the year that the Danish love for cycling would be on full display, with the Tour de France’s opening legs, known as the Grand Départ, being held in Denmark for the first time. But because of a scheduling conflict with the European Championship and the Olympics, the Danes will have to wait until 2022. The 2021 Grand Départ will take place in windy Brittany, where Finistère’s point in Brest will host the start of the race for the fourth time in its history.


ENGLAND, July 1: On what would have been Princess Diana’s 60th birthday, her sons, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, are joining forces — despite the physical (and perhaps symbolic) distance between London and California — to erect a statue in her honor in the Sunken Gardens at Kensington Palace, where they both grew up.

JAPAN, July 23-Aug. 8 [postponed from July 24-Aug. 9, 2020]: Tokyo will host the first postponed Olympic Games in recent history, having confronted political, economic and logistical challenges no other host nation has faced, including where exactly to store the Olympic flame for a year. The Winter Olympics in Beijing are scheduled to open on Feb. 4, 2022, less than six months later.

AUSTRALIA, July 30-Aug. 1: The dromedaries of southern Queensland will step boldly into the spotlight at the biannual Tara Festival of Culture and Camel Races, which also will include Maori haka dancers, yabby (crayfish) races, freestyle motocross displays and recitations of bush poetry. Caravans and campers will descend on the little farming town of Tara, which has a population of about 2,200 but attracts as many as 12,000 visitors for the occasion.


THE INTERNET, Aug. 17: Microsoft pulls the plug on its 25-year-old browser, Internet Explorer. Its replacement, Microsoft Edge, will use Chromium, an open-source software developed by Google that is the basis of Google Chrome and many other internet browsers. Thus Google expands its influence over privacy standards throughout the online universe.


RWANDA, Sept. 3-10: Baby mountain gorillas born in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park are named by park rangers, guides, wardens, trackers and veterinarians in the annual ceremony of Kwita Izina, which means “to give a name” in Kinyarwanda, Rwanda’s national language. The tradition is part of a weeklong program of events focused on gorilla conservation.

FRANCE, Sept. 11: As you sprint through the rolling hills of Bordeaux, you stop for a drink — a Château Lafite Rothschild, perhaps. You might want to pair it with some regional delicacies, of course — oysters, or a bit of steak — then off you go toward the finish line. At least that’s how it’s done at the 26.2-mile Marathon du Médoc, considered by some the longest in the world because of the many stops involved to eat, drink or listen to the live music of regional performers.


UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, Oct. 1, 2021-March 31, 2022 [postponed from Oct. 20, 2020-April 10, 2021]: Dubai hosts the World Expo, becoming the first Middle Eastern venue in the roughly 170-year history of the Bureau International des Expositions. The Expo expects representation from more than 190 nations. Mascots, you ask? As we said last year: Get to know Rashid and Latifa as they embark on an exciting new journey, led by Salama the wise Ghaf tree!

RUSSIA, Oct. 1: Amid a multicountry moon rush, Russia returns to space with its first lunar mission since 1976. The Luna 25 moon lander will head to the moon’s south pole, the first step in a plan to launch a manned flight and a landing on its surface in 2030.


SCOTLAND, Nov. 1-12 [postponed from Nov. 9-19, 2020]: The musically named 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP26, will be the biggest international summit meeting that Britain has ever hosted. The postponed meeting will enjoy the benefit of hindsight; with the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. to the presidency, the United States is expected to make a 180-degree turn in its climate change and conservation policies, first by returning to the 2015 Paris Agreement.

BARBADOS, by November 2021: Barbados, a former British colony that gained independence in 1966, will shed more remnants of its past by removing Queen Elizabeth as its titular monarch, the first country in nearly three decades to do so. The queen remains ceremonial “ruler” of the 16 other countries that make up the Commonwealth, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.


UNITED STATES, Dec. 2-5 [postponed from Dec. 3-6, 2020]: The hottest of all the Basel international art fairs, Art Basel Miami Beach, will return after a year in which it was largely confined to online viewing rooms and its venue, the Miami Beach Convention Center, was used as a reserve field hospital and a drive-through coronavirus testing site.


EGYPT: One of the most prestigious — and delayed — museum building projects of the 21st century, the Grand Egyptian Museum, will be unveiled in Giza, boasting some 5,600 objects from the Tutankhamen collection on view together for the first time. The museum was originally scheduled to open in 2011 but was delayed by the Arab Spring.

SWITZERLAND: Move over, cash. Cryptocurrency start-ups are peacefully challenging your position as king in the Zug canton of Switzerland, nicknamed the Crypto Valley. Citizens there will have the option to pay their taxes — up to 100,000 Swiss francs (about $110,000) — in the Ether or Bitcoin cryptocurrencies.

OCEANS: With the kickoff of the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which will last until 2030, the United Nations hopes to address the elephant seal in the room: the state of the world’s oceans, whose declining health directly threatens the well-being of the three billion people who depend on them for their primary sources of protein.

SPACE: Pending two successful test flights, Richard Branson, the Virgin founder and billionaire entrepreneur, will fly to space in a Virgin Galactic rocket ship. Because of course.

CHINA: The Chinese Communist Party will celebrate both its 100th birthday and the achievement of President Xi Jinping’s long-term goal of eliminating extreme poverty in China. Despite Mr. Xi’s expected claims of victory, the pandemic has exposed the party’s shortcomings in providing China’s most vulnerable citizens with more than the most meager of social safeguards, particularly in rural areas.

UNITED STATES: After 14 years, the final season of the reality television show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” will air on the E! network. If the Kardashians have proved anything during their unceasing and unfathomable run, it’s that fame is an endless resource that can be harnessed by anyone who knows how to work a camera. Or doesn’t.

Masha Goncharova

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