December 28, 2012

2012: The Year to be British

Without a doubt the world's eyes were on the UK throughout a good chunk of 2012 due to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and of course the London Olympics and Paralympics. It has been an unforgettable year and a year where us Brits have really come together to celebrate our pretty amazing country. It has also given some people a much needed reminder that our country actually isn't all that bad, because with the British tendency to moan, we sometimes have a habit of forgetting that. With all that happened, I thought I'd review the year that has made me extremely proud to be British.

The festivities began way back on the 6th February, exactly 60 years after Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne in 1952. This day was marked by the creation of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust which was intended to help charities across all of the Commonwealth nations. 

Following this, the Jubilee tour kicked off, with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh travelling throughout the UK. It all started in Leicester where yours truly was there to see not only the Queen and Prince Phillip, but also the Duchess of Cambridge! Unfortunately, none of them came near me during their quick walkabout but it was still a pretty cool experience. Below are some pictures my Dad took during the visit.

HM Queen Elizabeth II
HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
HRH The Duchess of Cambridge
 While the Queen was galavanting around the UK, she decided to leave the overseas visits to her children and grand-children. One of the most surprising successes was Prince Harry's visit to Jamaica. It was his first solo tour overseas representing the Queen, so all eyes were on him to see how he would cope and cope he did. The highlight had to be him 'winning' a race against Usain Bolt. Was anyone else disappointed that there wasn't a rematch at the Olympics?

Prince Harry 'winning' against Usain Bolt.
It was at the start of June, however, that the party really kicked off. On the 3rd June a flotilla of 1000 boats took to the Thames in one of the largest gatherings seen on the river for 350 years. It was an amazing display and some how, despite the freezing cold, the Queen managed to stay out and watch the entire thing. Unfortunately, because of the aforementioned rubbish British weather, the grand finale of fireworks had to be cancelled but it was still pretty cool. Hey, the Queen seemed to enjoy it and, after all, it was for her.

A view of the flotilla as it heads towards Tower Bridge.
The following day saw the part of the celebrations that was definitely more for the people than the Queen: the Diamond Jubilee Concert that was held in front of Buckingham Palace. It was a brilliant night with performers from every decade of the Queen's reign, well Cliff Richard was there anyway. My highlight had to be Robbie Williams sing Mack the Knife. Robbie singing swing is the best. 

A view down the Mall toward Buckingham Palace during the Jubilee Concert.
Day 3 of the long Jubilee Weekend consisted of a Service of Thanksgiving at St. Pauls Cathedral. I felt this was the moment that showed that the Queen ain't going anywhere anytime soon purely on the fact that she had no difficulty getting up the numerous steps to the cathedral and then walking the bloody long aisle. Queen Victoria, however, who is the only other monarch to have celebrated a Diamond Jubilee, was too frail for her thanksgiving service so she had to sit outside the cathedral in a carriage.

Bring on the Platinum Jubilee!

The Royal Family watching the flyover during their balcony appearance after the Service of Thanksgiving.
To top the Royal year off, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced that they were expecting, which means that 2013 will bring us a new heir! And with the new law that has been introduced, if the baby is a girl, she will be Queen, whether or not she has any younger brothers.

Later in the summer, the world's eyes really did turn to us as thousands of athletes from around the world descended on London for the biggest sporting event in the world: the Olympic Games.

Many were nervous to see what was in store for the Opening Ceremony, especially after our pretty cheesy segment in the Beijing Closing Ceremony. In the end, we needn't have worried as Danny Boyle created an masterpiece! Where else could you include the creator of the internet, a 40ft Voldemort and the Queen and James Bond parachuting out of a helicopter? I can even technically say I was in the Ceremony as the confetti was meant to represent every member of the British public. 

Lord Voldemort just casually gate-crashing the Olympic Opening Ceremony.
Then came the sport and after a bit of a slow start Team GB just went gold medal crazy! The final medal total was 65 with 29 of those being Gold. We ended 3rd in the medal tables which is a massive achievement when you think about it. Great Britain has around 60 million people so when you compare that to the USA's 314 million and China's 1.3 billion it really shows how great an achievement it really was.

The highlight of the games for me was the men's all around gymnastics final, mainly because I was there! It was also the infamous moment where we had been awarded the silver medal but after Japan appealed and got their marks changed we were demoted to bronze. It was still an incredible achievement for the boys but the boos the judges got from the entire O2 arena were pretty deafening, that's for sure!

Me and my sister in the O2 Arena just before the Men's All Around Final
Other highlights were 'Super Saturday' when Team GB racked up 6 gold medals. In the morning we got 2 down at Eton Dorney in the rowing, followed by one in the Women's Team Persuit in the Velodrome. But, it was in the Athletics that excitement real happened. It started with Jessica Ennis, the poster girl of London 2012, winning the Heptathlon. This was followed by a bit of a surprise win from Greg Rutherford in the Long Jump. The night was topped off with Mo Farah winning the 10,000m, and so began the craze of the Olympics, the mobot.

Mo Farah and Usain Bolt trade poses.
I was so sad that the Olympics came to an end as it really did bring the country together but unfortunately Boris Johnson had to hand over the flag to Brazil. But, we made sure we went out with a bang with the Closing Ceremony. Spice Girls. Need I say more?

People of the world, Spice up your life!
Skip forward a couple of weeks and sports was back in the form of the Paralympics. It saddened me to see how overlooked the Paralympics was by many countries as it really was incredible to watch. It really demonstrated what disabled people can do rather than what they can't. On the plus side, with the USA not around to nick all our medals we managed to rake in a massive 120 medals!

David Weir as he wins the first of four Paralympic Gold medals.
The Olympics and Paralympics were rounded of with a Victory parade through London. I have to admit I did get a little teary-eyed during the speeches. Our athletes did our country proud! Plus, I was practically crying with laughter at Boris' speech.

Team GB!
All in all, it's has been an incredible year for this country I get to call home and I can't believe it's all over! While 2013 may not have the big events of this year, I hope our togetherness and patriotism continues!


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