Events to Shake, or Gently Rattle, the World in 2022 (Published 2021) (2023)



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Turning Points: Guest Essay

Planning your calendar for next year? Here are some events to look out for.

Events to Shake, or Gently Rattle, the World in 2022 (Published 2021) (1)

By Masha Goncharova


This article is part of a series called Turning Points, in which writers explore what critical moments from this year might mean for the year ahead. You can read more by visiting the Turning Points series page.

Before looking ahead to 2022, let’s take a moment to reflect on 2021, the rebound year to 2020. (They blur at some point, don’t they?) At least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine was distributed to more than 4 billion people worldwide, but the highly contagious Delta variant caused infection rates to swell, casting doubt on the feasibility of large, in-person gatherings. Undeterred, global events got creative.

When Britain added Turkey to its “red list” of high-risk travel destinations three weeks before the Champions League soccer final in Istanbul, the league’s governing body, UEFA, moved the match to Porto, Portugal. Despite a spike in coronavirus cases in Iraq, Pope Francis made the first-ever papal visit to the country, which included stops in former Islamic State strongholds in northern Iraq ravaged by militants. In Tokyo, as Covid-19 cases surged in the run-up to the Summer Olympics, spectators were largely barred from attending events, which led to some of the best organized — yet oddest — Games in history.

Meanwhile, the internet was at full capacity. According to a Pew Research Center survey in April, 81 percent of Americans joined video calls after the pandemic’s onset, and 43 percent of them employed those calls in new ways: for weddings, funerals, church meetings, dates and doctor appointments. The great Facebook outage of Oct. 4 — when the company’s family of apps, including Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook itself, went offline for more than five hours — caused a good chunk of Facebook’s 3.5 billion users to flock to other social media like Twitter. The incident exposed our fierce dependence on social media, particularly in a post-Covid world, and the potential fragility of the very platforms through which we communicate.

Mark Zuckerberg isn’t worried about it, though. In fact, he’s busy preparing for next year, when Facebook will plunge into the “metaverse,” a digitally simulated reality that he says users can be “inside of rather than just looking at.” For more on this, and all the other events set to shake, or gently rattle, our physical and digital worlds in 2022, read on.


UNITED STATES, Jan. 1: Cured bacon, anyone? California improves the treatment of breeding animals by banning the sale of pork from sows kept in gestation crates smaller than 24 square feet during their pregnancy. The Farm Animal Confinement Proposition, or Proposition 12, could spur one of two outcomes. It could drastically drain the state’s supply of bacon, since only about 4 percent of U.S. pork producers currently adhere to the new law’s standards. Or, more optimistically, it could leverage the state’s consumption of 15 percent of pork nationwide to compel factory farms across the country to reconfigure their gestation crates.


INDIA, Jan. 14: From before dawn until after dusk, meticulously prepared kites take to the Ahmedabad sky for Uttarayan, India’s International Kite Festival. During the festival’s “kite fights,” competitors attempt to cut down each other’s kites, a feat met with the triumphant cry of “kai po che!” or “I have cut!” But the strings that maneuver these spectacles, called manja, have a sinister past. Coated with metal or powdered glass to facilitate the slashing of other kites, manja have become known as the “strings of death” for entangling and fatally slashing the necks of those in its path. Ahead of the festival, the Ahmedabad police seize thousands of reels of the banned string from sellers in markets around the city.


BANGLADESH, BHUTAN, CAMBODIA, CHINA, INDIA, INDONESIA, LAOS, MALAYSIA, MYANMAR, NEPAL, RUSSIA, THAILAND AND VIETNAM, Feb. 1: The beginning of the Chinese Year of the Tiger marks the deadline for Tx2, a commitment by 13 countries to double the global tiger population by 2022 and the most ambitious recovery effort ever undertaken for a single species. The project launched in 2010, when there were about 3,200 known wild tigers worldwide. Since then, India, home to 60 percent of the world’s tigers, approved 14 new tiger conservation sites, and Russia tripled the tiger population in its Land of the Leopard National Park.


CHINA, Feb. 4-20: Beijing becomes the first city in the world to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics after having hosted the Summer Games in 2008. The People’s Bank of China also plans to test out its cash-like digital currency called “e-CNY” with visitors and athletes. The only question is: Will anyone come? Hundreds of human rights advocacy groups are calling for a boycott of the “Genocide Games,” so named after China’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.



ARGENTINA, March 31: Argentina performs a financial tango with multiple creditors. First up is the Paris Club, an informal group of 22 creditor nations, which is due $2.4 billion after it allowed Argentina to narrowly skirt a default last year. Next is the International Monetary Fund, which gave the country the biggest loan in the organization’s history — $57 billion, the repayment of which continues to be renegotiated.


FRANCE, April 10: France heads to the presidential polls, but don’t expect the old pas de deux between the incumbent Emmanuel Macron and the far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Paris’s socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, and the Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier have also thrown their hats in the ring. Whoever wins inherits a country steadfastly embracing “le wokisme,” France’s answer to the American woke movement of identity politics and racial equality.



UNITED STATES, May 6-8: Miami Gardens, Fla., becomes the first predominantly African American city to host a Formula 1 auto race. While the race, the Miami Grand Prix, is expected to boost the city’s economy by $400 million annually in a 10-year deal, some residents have gathered in protest. They cite potential deafening noise and major traffic disruptions, saying that the location was chosen after a mainly white community in downtown Miami successfully opposed the Formula 1 race there in 2018.

ENGLAND, May 27-Dec. 4: Can you dance? Can you jive? Can you have the time of your life? Hard to say after nearly two years in lockdown, but the answer is a resounding “yes” at the ABBA Voyage, a massive digital reunion concert of the Swedish legends of 1970s pop. The venue, a custom-built arena in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, will host the four band members’ avatars alongside a live 10-piece band. Seating options include eight Dance Booths, a category above auditorium seating that allows groups of up to 12 people to release their inner Dancing Queens on their own personal dance floor.


ENGLAND, June 2-5: Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 70th anniversary as monarch at the Platinum Jubilee, the first such celebration in the history of Britain. Since ascending the throne at 25 years old, the queen has seen England decolonize Africa and members of the royal family start paying British income taxes. She has visited more than 100 countries and was the first British monarch to visit Saudi Arabia, in 1979; China, in 1986; Moscow’s Red Square, in 1994; and the Republic of Ireland, in 2011. Meanwhile, across the pond in Montecito, Calif., her grandson Prince Harry is preparing to celebrate the release of his tell-all memoir later in the year.

NEW ZEALAND, June 24: In Maori, the language of Indigenous Polynesian New Zealanders, “Matariki” is the name for the Pleiades star cluster. It appears in the midwinter months in the Southern Hemisphere and marks the start of a new year in the Maori calendar. As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised during her election campaign, Matariki will be celebrated as a national public holiday for the first time.


SPAIN: Canadian tech unicorn Dapper Labs, known for the online marketplace NBA Top Shot, launches a partnership with one of the most popular sports leagues in the world: Spain’s La Liga. Top Shot sells digital collectibles, or video highlights from current and past NBA games. Last year, a LeBron James reverse windmill slam dunk sold for $208,000. The new soccer platform will offer a similar experience with La Liga’s top-flight teams.


AUSTRALIA, July 1: New citywide containment laws in Canberra mandate that all pet cats be kept indoors or contained in outdoor enclosures for their own safety and the protection of local wildlife, starting in July. Residents’ cats prey on an estimated 61,000 native birds; 2,000 native mammals; 30,000 native reptiles; and 6,000 native frogs each year, officials said. Fines for breaking the law run as high as $1,600. Exceptions, you ask? Your cat may leave the house if on a leash.

FRANCE, July 24-31: The Tour de France rides into history with the inaugural Tour de France Femmes. While organizers briefly held a women’s race from 1984 to 1989, followed by other variations of women’s races, insufficient funding and media attention led to their eventual demise. This time, the Tour is committing to daily live television coverage and says it hopes to hold the race for at least the next 100 years.


NIGERIA: The Benin Bronzes are a collection of 16th- to 18th-century metal plaques and sculptures looted from the Benin Kingdom (what is present-day Nigeria) during a British military raid in 1897. Many of the pieces that are currently housed in 25 museums across Germany are now returning home. The Nigerian government has announced plans to transfer them to the Edo Museum of West African Art, which will be constructed in Benin City. All eyes invariably turn to The British Museum, which houses what is considered the single largest collection of Benin Bronzes in the world.


SERBIA, Aug. 15: Every August, the small town of Guca plays host to the largest brass band festival in the world. In 2001, a local organizer described the scene to The New York Times as “pure insanity.” While some bands perform onstage, others wander through the crowds playing songs up close as they vie for revelers’ attention and bills, which are slapped onto the musicians’ sweaty foreheads or stuffed into their horns.

PSYCHE ASTEROID: An asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter is thought to contain enough metal that, if it could be transported back to Earth, would yield $10,000 quadrillion worth of iron alone. Interesting, thinks NASA, which is sending a spacecraft 1.5 billion miles to investigate Psyche. The journey is expected to take about three-and-a-half years.


MONGOLIA, mid September: At the annual Golden Eagle Festival, nomadic eagle hunters, called burkitshi and clad in traditional fur attire, gather on horseback for two days of hunting competitions. Traditionally a male-dominated sport, eagle hunting has attracted several hunters who are women over the past decade. Keep your eyes peeled for Aisholpan Nurgaiv, the first woman to compete in the festival, which she won in 2014.



LOW EARTH ORBIT, Oct. 1: Wayne Enterprises — er, SpaceX begins a five-year collaboration with the U.S. Air Force. It will allow the military to use SpaceX’s Starship rocket to deliver weapons anywhere in the world in less than an hour, according to estimates. No Batman in sight here, but the chief executive of SpaceX , Elon Musk, will no doubt keep a close eye on the partnership, which will enable the Air Force to transition from the Russian RD-180 engines it currently uses for its rockets to SpaceX’s Raptor engine, one of the most efficient rocket engines in the world.


BRAZIL, Oct. 2: Brazil votes for its next president. Commenting on the elections, the embattled incumbent Jair Bolsonaro said, “I have three alternatives for my future: being arrested, killed or victory.” A Brazilian congressional panel has recommended that he be charged with crimes against humanity over his handling of the coronavirus crisis. Mr. Bolsonaro is accused of intentionally abetting the spread of the virus in an effort to achieve herd immunity, leaving hundreds of thousands of Brazilians dead.


QATAR, Nov. 21-Dec. 18: Qatar, a small Persian Gulf emirate, hosts the World Cup, the biggest soccer event in the world. Throughout 10 years of preparations, the country has been troubled by controversy over the event, including allegations of corruption and bribery to secure the bid to host the match. It has also been accused of failing to protect its work force of 2 million, in the wake of the deaths of thousands of migrant construction workers who built seven stadiums; a new subway system; an airport; roads; and an entirely new city, Lusail, to host the final game.

ABU DHABI: The world’s largest single-site solar farm becomes operational in Al Dhafra to generate electricity for approximately 160,000 homes. The plant is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1.6 million metric tons per year, the equivalent of removing around 470,000 cars from the road.



ATLANTIC OCEAN: Looking for a new workout routine before Christmas? Try rowing across the Atlantic. As part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Rowing Challenge, you’ll depart the Canary Islands en route to Antigua with a simple daily routine: row for two hours, then sleep for two hours, all day. In the end, you’ll have traveled more than 3,000 miles and completed a feat accomplished by fewer people than have climbed Mount Everest.


UNITED STATES, Dec. 21: Nintendo and the film studio Illumination sparked a social media uproar by casting the American actor Chris Pratt as the voice of the beloved Italian plumber Mario in a new animated movie based on the video game “Super Mario Bros.” It is set for release in December 2022. Previous incarnations of the character have been played by Charles Martinet, who is American and has voiced Mario in the video games since 1995, and Bob Hoskins, who is British and played Mario in a 1993 live-action film. Mr. Pratt will be joined by a stacked cast: Charlie Day as Luigi, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Jack Black as Bowser, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad and Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong.



CHILE, early 2022: What is our place in the universe? The Vera C. Rubin Observatory, home to the world’s largest digital camera, hopes to snap that into focus. An unprecedented digital mapping project using a 3,200-megapixel camera on the Simonyi Survey Telescope seeks to produce the deepest and widest image of the universe to date.


FRANCE: It’s a tale as old as time. Neptune grass Posidonia oceanica absorbs carbon dioxide, emits oxygen, protects coasts from erosion and provides habitat for fish. Then a mega-yacht anchor drops and drags across the seabed, forever damaging the seagrass meadows. In 2022, the fabulous Pampelonne beach near St.-Tropez rewrites the narrative by creating ecological mooring areas. Comprising floating chests attached to a concrete bellow, these areas will allow boats of up to 60 meters to safely moor without dropping their anchors.


CHINA: China completes its space station, Tiangong, in 2022. In 2024, Tiangong will become the only permanent space station in orbit when the International Space Station (from which China was banned in 2011) gets decommissioned.

THE METAVERSE(S): Who isn’t launching a metaverse next year? Meta Platforms Inc. (née Facebook) planned to invest around $10 billion into Reality Labs in 2021 — the company’s new augmented and virtual reality projects division — to build a metaverse in which you can have experiences as intimate as visiting your parents as a hologram or as fantastical as fencing with an Olympic athlete. Microsoft will launch Mesh for Teams, a gateway to its metaverse where employees can video conference as avatars or go to digital twins of their real-world offices. In Seoul’s $3.3 million municipal metaverse, tentatively named “Metaverse Seoul,” citizens can visit reproductions of landmarks or meet with avatar officials. And if you’ve given up on finding love in the real world, Match Group, which owns Tinder, and OkCupid, has outlined some plans to leverage its acquisition of Hyperconnect, the platform behind “Single Town,” a metaverse dating experience still in testing that lets avatar singles mingle in various virtual locations.



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