A very special year | Sunday Observer

A very special year

What is so special about 2020? For once, it is a leap year that adds one extra day to our calendar. And such a combination of numbers will not appear until 2121, when only a very few us will be alive. It is literally a once in a lifetime year.

A leap year holds one other attraction - the Summer Olympics, which will be held from July 24 to August 9 in Tokyo, which joins a select list of cities that would host the Olympics for the second time after 1964.

Held under the themes, Discover Tomorrow and the usual “Faster, Higher, Stronger”, more than 11,000 athletes representing more than 200 countries including Sri Lanka and 50 disciplines will flock to the Japanese capital.

The Paralympics will begin immediately afterwards. The only other World Cup in the year is the T20 Cricket World Cup, which will have a nice ring to it - Twenty20/2020. Europe will have the Euro20 soccer tournament.

If you are not into sports but would like a more cultural experience, there is only one place to be in 2020: Dubai, UAE, less than five hours flying time from Colombo.

The Dubai Expo will span 173 days, with each country (including Sri Lanka) having an individual pavilion with a separate day to showcase the cultural, culinary and tourist attractions on offer. The overall theme of Dubai Expo 2020 is Connecting Minds, Creating the Future. Incidentally, neighbouring Saudi Arabia will hold the G20 Summit in 2020, which is another 20/20 combination The UN designates entire years for various causes and themes and this year it is the turn of the Nurse. This year has been designated by the UN as the Year of the Nurse, to mark Florence Nightingale’s 200th birth anniversary (May 12).

The world’s nurses are unsung heroes who lay their lives on the line to serve patients everywhere from the conflict zones to pestilence-stricken villages. This year will have several big anniversaries including the 75thAnniversary of the founding of the United Nations (UN) from the embers of World War II. It also marks the 75th Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Music lovers will rejoice as the 250th Birth Anniversary of Ludwig Van Beethoven falls this year.

The most eagerly awaited political event of 2020 is the Senate Impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump, scheduled to take place this month. President Trump is most likely to emerge victorious, but perhaps not unscathed, since the Senate is controlled by the Republicans, who are solidly behind the President almost to a man. However, Trump will go down in history as only the third US President to be impeached – none was removed from office though. Incidentally, the US Presidential Election will be held in November when Trump can seek a second term unless he is removed through Impeachment, which is a political, not legal, process.

Among the other countries and territories which will have elections are: Sri Lanka (April-May), Taiwan (January 11), Guinea (February and October), Israel (March 2, the third poll in 15 months), South Korea (April 15), Ethiopia (May), Singapore (May), Hong Kong (September), Myanmar (November) and Burkina Faso (November). Facebook and Twitter will come under intense scrutiny as their role in previous elections has been roundly criticized.

Science is expected to make vast strides this year. The biggest focus will be on the Climate Crisis, the central theme of “Extinction Rebellion” protests around the world in 2019, inspired by the Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. World leaders will meet in Kunming to discuss biodiversity and emissions in Glasgow.

This year will be a crucial year to initiate action as 2100, the year that could see a climate catastrophe if things go unchecked, is just one generation away.

In case the Earth literally becomes too hot, humankind is already looking at the neighbouring Red Planet to make a second home through an eventual process of Terraformation, an idea proposed by our very own Sir Arthur C Clarke.

Several countries will send robotic probes to Mars in July (the best launch window) this year, including Mars 2020 (USA), ExoMars (European Space Agency/Russia) and Hope Mars (UAE).

They will look for signs of life on Mars and suitable habitats for future colonies. You might not be able to buy a ticket to Mars just yet, but you will be able to reach the Earth orbit when Virgin Galactic launches commercial space flights this year.

A year in which mere mortals can reach the celestial sphere is indeed a cause for celebration.