Connecting Global Cities: Key events of 2016

Dec 22, 2016 8:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

“Connecting Global Cities” is a monthly column written by Colin Speakman, Resident Director for CAPA Shanghai.

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I am continuing this tradition from 2014 of reviewing key events through the year. It is of course partly a personal selection as a lot happened this year. Indeed the start of the year saw so many famous people pass away that it prompted discussion that this was going to be a record year for that. It proved not to be the case as we neared the year's end and that aspect now seems to have been front loaded.

As someone who counts London as their second home, I was sad to see a local lad turned megastar passing. David Bowie originally from Brixton, died soon after his 69th birthday and after launching a new album, "Blackstar". He was New York-based by then - famous people often lead a global life - but much celebrated in UK. My favorite Bowie song? "China Girl" followed by "Let's Dance"! 

Photo: A young David Bowie (public domain)

Another megastar's life was 30 years longer; in the last month of the year, we lost Zsa Zsa Gabor at 99 in Los Angeles. It would be hard not to recognize the impact of another nonagenarian, Fidel Castro, who passed in November at aged 90, in Santiago, Cuba. 

I have been to New York, Los Angeles and Santiago and sometimes when you have been to a city a famous person who has lived in it sticks in the memory. I give two examples from the distant past - a wonderful British actor, Richard Burton, passed away in Geneva when I was there and the famous designer Gianni Versace was murdered in Miami Beach while I visited - both in their 50s.

Finally in this section, as a soccer fan, and with an eye to the historic tragic plane crash that took so many Manchester United players back in 1958 - the Munich Air Disaster - we so cruelly saw history repeat itself when most of the Brazilian Chapecoense team perished in a failed landing in Colombia late November on their way to a cup final after a fairy tale rise.

Sadly, the world saw many terrorist activities, refugees and natural disasters - a lot of bad news making the headlines. It has also been a year of political change. In my mind sticks a photo in the first half of 2016, of the then leaders of France, Germany, Italy, UK and USA chatting at an international gathering; in 2017 only one of them might still be in power. Follow the recent changes in Italy from CAPA's Florence center. However, Australia re-elected its Prime Minister. Follow events there in CAPA's global city of Sydney. 

What were the happiest events? 

Back on the soccer scene, the fairy tale story that came true - an unfashionable English Premiership club of limited resources and just escaping relegation the season before, won the league. Leicester City gave hope to all supporters that anything is possible. It was an Olympic year in Brazil, in the global city of Rio de Janeiro Congrats to the USA! And how about Britain finishing second in the gold medals? 

Colombian President Santos Addresses the Crowd
Photo: Colombia's President Santos addressing a crowd (Public Domain)

South America continued to be in the news with a 50-year-old war finally ending in Colombia and President Santos being recognized for this achievement with the Nobel Peace Prize. If you're interested in South American affairs, CAPA's global city of Buenos Aires offers a good vantage point. 

There were votes on important things: Should the UK remain in the EU? Who will be the next President of the USA? Should the Italian Constitution be changed? It is not for me to categorize those results as good or bad; each person should decide for themselves.

There is no doubt that some of these events will have a global impact in 2017. I pick out CAPA's global city of London for one. The decision in a referendum for the UK to leave the EU was quite a narrow vote for "exit" taking the country as a whole. However 80% of Londoners voted to remain and we have to see if the outcome will impact on London's globalization. Tt is not so clear as the UK negotiates to retain key access to the EU and also to get trade deals with China, a President Trump-led USA and others. Will CAPA's global city of Dublin benefit as an English-speaking member of the EU? We live in interesting times.

Photo: EU flag (public domain)

Finally a lot has gone on in China and continuing to pursue the China Dream of a modestly prosperous society underpins much of it. Health of citizens is important globally and in November, CAPA's global city of Shanghai hosted the World Health Organization's 9th Global Conference on Health Promotion and many important commitments were made. If that interests you, please read more in my article published in Chinese English media here.

Happy New Year Year everyone and do stay healthy in 2017! 

Thanks Colin!

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Topics: Global Cities