Reasons to look forward to 2021, from vaccines to the Olympic Games


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rom a global pandemic to Brexit, 2020 has been a trying year wherever and however you have spent it.

Lockdowns, job losses, isolation and the rollercoaster ride that was Boris Johnson’s government negotiating with the EU have defined the previous 12 months.

But away from the despair of the last year, there are reasons for optimism as 2021 approaches.

The world can look forward to the rollout of Covid vaccines, an Olympic Games, the possibility of weddings – and for those patiently waiting for a different US administration, removal vans queueing outside the White House.

Here some of our writers and editors discuss their aspirations for the next 12 months.

Travel Correspondent Simon Calder

Millions of us spent much of this year looking forward to a 2021 that we fondly hoped would be a normal year of travel.

Gradually that aspiration has eroded, starting with New Year ski trips and perhaps a Florida escape in February, with perhaps a cruise attached?

Frankly, I imagine we will all settle for a vaguely plausible summer and autumn.

While many in the travel trade continue to hope that April will see a great blossoming of holidays, others are predicting June or later. As with my team Crawley Town’s midweek outing at Forest Green, I’ll settle a decent second half (79th-minute winner, since you ask).

Yet for those with the time, the cash and the health to travel, this is going to be a great year.

Let’s start with attitude. Yes, by the time we reached peak travel in 2019, life had become too easy. You could fly where you wished, when you wished, with greater comfort and safety – and for less cash – than ever.

In July, as I stepped from a British Airways plane at Nice airport after an entirely Continent-free March, April and May, I was overjoyed to be able to walk the Provencal hills and sip rosé at a pavement cafe.

Not only will we be, finally, profoundly grateful for the simplest travel experiences – our hosts have reassessed the immense value of tourism.

Expect to be welcomed with special warmth, not least because of another reason why 2021 will be a blessed year: the freedom to explore once-overcrowded locations in something like peace.

Venice, Dubrovnik and Barcelona will be refreshingly little affected by the passenger invasions that have made them unbearably crowded in previous summers. In one of the brief gaps between quarantines and lockdowns I explored Florence in wonderful solitude.

Early adopters in 2021 should find the same.

Your concern about being part of the over-tourism problem should abate – along with the worst excesses of aviation. The UK started 2020 as the mother ship for the world’s Boeing 747s. But both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have bid farewell to these gas-guzzling behemoths and are instead building much more modest fleets of Airbus A350 jets.

While we have all been dreaming, I sense many of us have been reassessing our relationship with travel: not so much a sequence of two-night stands in a miscellany of European cities but a properly planned adventure through the Continent, appreciating its amazing diversity of landscapes and cultures.

Brexit is taking us back to the early 1970s in terms of the complexities of travel – but that was also an era when we relished every moment abroad.

Sports Editor Ben Burrows

The 2021 Olympic Games, the best event in all of sport, will finally get underway in Tokyo in August. An unprecedented five years after the last in Rio de Janeiro, it promises to be an extra special one.

Euro 2020, an ambitious 12-country tournament, may yet be changed, but the show must go on with the best football has to offer on show. Will football finally come home for England?

After what seems like forever of waiting the two best British boxers of their generation – Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua – should finally meet in a ring in 2021. A rematch before the year is out is almost certain, too.

Political Editor Andrew Woodcock

After a miserable 2020 in politics, 2021 can surely only be an improvement. With the Department of Health expecting to vaccinate the entire country over the coming months, the government is hopeful of a return to normal life which will see millions back at work, shopping and going out, with a knock-on boost to the economy that may cast a brighter light over the coming year.

Boris Johnson hopes to use his “levelling up” agenda to drive that economic resurgence, borrowing money on a vast scale to invest in infrastructure from roads and regeneration for the north of England to lasers, robots and drones for the military.

The environment will be put centre stage as the UK hosts the delayed COP26 United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow, where the PM hopes to sign the world up to ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, following on from his own pledge to ban polluting petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

Culture Reporter Adam White

Optimism has been in short supply in the arts world this year. News of vaccines, though, has provided a lifeline, or at least real confirmation that all of this will eventually, hopefully, blissfully end. Here are some arty things to be excited for…

Outdoor music festivals remain a question mark in 2021, but may also be the easiest space for innovation – whether in the form of an app to monitor vaccinated ticket-holders, or on-site testing. That means that it’s not outrageous to ponder the likelihood of Glastonbury occurring next summer (it’s currently scheduled for 23-27 June), or Barcelona’s Primavera Sound (2-6 June).

Film in 2020 has felt like one big tease of blockbusters we just aren’t getting to see, something that should hopefully cease in 2021. Daniel Craig’s 007 swan song No Time to Die is scheduled for 2 April, Marvel’s Black Widow allegedly arrives in May, and Wes Anderson’s star-studded The French Dispatch will finally have the glamorous awards-season run that got curtailed this autumn.

While production was delayed this past summer, the BBC’s adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends will finally begin filming in early 2021. And, unlike Normal People’s Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones, it is currently unknown stars should hopefully be able to enjoy their new fame in a world not plagued by Zoom calls and pandemic woes.

Indy100 Editor Sirena Bergman

Learning to use Twitter fleets: If you didn’t know you needed yet another 24-hours-then-it’s-gone social media platform, it’s because you probably didn’t. But @jack doesn’t care, so here we have it. Maybe next year we’ll finally work out what it’s actually supposed to be used for?

The rise of the YouTube lawyers: Anyone who lives to geek out on the intersection of influencer drama, pop culture beef and US law should be getting the popcorn out. A few fast-growing channels and unprecedented lawsuits suggest this could be the trend of 2021 and we’re here for it.

The actual dismantling of systemic racism: With the renewed Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, followed by the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, we’ve seen more mainstream discussion around racial inequality than for most of my adult life. This is positive but it’s just the beginning – here’s hoping that, if 2020 was the year of online activism, 2021 will be the year of real change.

Lifestyle Editor Harriet Hall

The normalisation of flexible working: Remember when companies were iffy about people working from home? The phrase was always followed by a wink-wink-nudge-nudge, as if a euphemism for doing little more than dossing. All that changed in 2020, of course, as we had little choice but to down tools and set up camp on our kitchen tables, proving that, in the age of tech and the internet, office spaces had become rather obsolete.

Of course, speaking to our bosses on Zoom from our bedrooms whilst wearing slippers wasn’t the professionalism we’d envisaged for ourselves, and instant messaging never did quite replace the thrill of impromptu water cooler chat. But while many of us crave the return to neon strip lighting, there’s no doubt that 2021 will bring more flexibility when it comes to draconian approach to workplaces.

Beyond a shorter commute, better work/life balance and less money spent waiting for the Thameslink to actually arrive, this could mean real change when it comes to women in particular, for whom the burden of childcare and school pickups often results in the necessity for part-time hours. Bring on a more manageable approach to work, we’re ready for it.

Gender fluid fashion going mainstream: A man? In a dress? On the cover of Vogue? What madness was this! The year 2020 did throw us some curveballs but it seemed many were far less emotionally prepared for a heterosexual male pop star in a ballgown than they were for a global pandemic.

Harry Style’s spin as the first-ever male cover star on US Vogue wearing Gucci couture sure caused a furore, but it also announced loudly and proudly that gendered dressing is about to be a thing of the past. Which make sense, really, since it was all made up in the first place.

With designers including Acne Studios, Valentino and Marc Jacobs offering fluidity on the catwalks, and new names on the bloc from Telfar to Sloane Studios and Harris Reed deciding not to market their designs according to gender, expect much more of this in 2021.

Next year also, fashion week will see both men’s and womenswear worn by all genders on the catwalks, as the delineation of gendered dressing is diluted, and unadulterated self-expression is celebrated instead. That is, after all, what fashion is all about.

The return of big weddings and reasons to dress up: Boris said it himself. “If you’re thinking about the summer, I think you will be alright,” the Prime Minister told a wedding industry professional during a recent press conference. “My hope is that, by summer, it really will be a different world for the weddings and events industry.”

With government figures estimating that around 73,600 wedding ceremonies were disrupted by the pandemic in 2020, the PM’s words gave hope to many affianced couples whose carefully laid nuptials had been scuppered or outright abandoned this year.

With the vaccine being rolled out, social distancing is expected to be a thing of the past by the middle of next year which just so happens to be perfect timing for wedding season. And never have we needed a reason to celebrate love or wanted to dance with our nearest and dearest more. To top it all off, we will do it all while absolutely not wearing a scrap of loungewear. To the bride and groom!

Foreign Editor David Harding

Things to look forward to in 2021: The end of the Trump presidency and its wearying circus; Costa Rica aiming to become a fully carbon neutral country; global use of the coronavirus vaccine; the murder trial of the officers accused of killing George Floyd starts in March – not something to relish, but could be a seismic event; And it might not seem much to do with global affairs but if Eurovision goes ahead in May in Rotterdam, it will be a great early benchmark that life is finally returning to normal.

Chief US Correspondent Andrew Buncombe

An end – hopefully – to all the political fist-fighting? For sure? A return to live sports matches and concerts? Tick.

An opportunity to go to a cinema and watch a movie on a big screen rather than scrolling through Netflix, trying to discover something you’ve not watched three times already? Double tick.

Yet, while Americans are looking forward to all of these things and more in 2021, as a vaccination programme gets underway and the 2020 presidential election starts to feel like a giant truck that shook us as it passed but we can now watch in the rear mirror as it recedes from view, it is a fair bet that above all else, they will welcome the chance to celebrate the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Or rather, to celebrate it in person, and without fear of getting ill or infecting someone else.

Some caveats, first and fast. Lots of people in 2021 will still be trying to rebuild their lives after they were shaken and rocked by the pandemic.

Who knows what the death toll may be by the time everyone who needs to be vaccinated gets a shot. And many of the jobs that went away as the pandemic hit are unlikely to be coming back. Many millions of Americans will celebrate simply if they can make ends meet.

The Thanksgiving Day holiday here is something pretty unique, and something that those who do not live here most likely do not fully understand.

And it should be pointed out, there is also controversy over the holiday itself; many point out this event, held to mark a 1621 harvest feast held by Mayflower settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with members of a an indigenous tribes, marked the start of a mass genocide of such people.

Today, what sets the holiday apart, is that unlike every other event on the calendar, it is largely commercial free – there are no Thanksgiving songs, there’s no obligation to buy a gift for someone. The shops are largely shut. Almost everyone takes the day off and tries to spend the day with their families.

The pause does not last long. The following day – Black Friday – is one of the biggest retail days of the year, with hordes of people camping out for bargains, or this year doing so online.

Along with the lack of commercialisation, its brevity also adds to its appeal. Of which helps explain why many Americans ignored the pleas of health officials this year not to mark the celebration in person, in order to keep more people safe.

In 2021, hopefully, everyone will be in a position to celebrate and give thanks safely.



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