So, how has the wider world changed over the last five years? Well, it has grown by two new countries. In 2008, Kosovo declared independence – to the consternation of Romania, Spain and other states with separatist issues. South Sudan took over the mantle of the world’s newest state three years later.
By Debbie Stowe
2008 was a mixed year for some prominent world leaders. Cuba’s Fidel Castro finally bowed out of politics after 49 years in power – a tally no doubt envied by Vladimir Putin. He yielded his presidential chair to Dmitry Medvedev, who duly made his mentor his PM, only for the two to swap back in 2012. Plus ça change… Which brings us to a more glamorous political alliance of 2008, when Nicolas Sarkozy married former model Carla Bruni. Other leaders had less to celebrate: Bosnian Serb Radovan Karadzic was arrested for war crimes, while Israeli PM Ehud Olmert resigned after being investigated for corruption (take note, Romanian politicians).
Meanwhile, after 275 years of “male, pale and stale” US presidents, a female and a mixed-race candidate vied for the Democratic nomination, with 2012 bringing hints the former will seek to succeed the latter in 2016.
Heedless of the politics, the economic crisis continued to build. 2008 saw investment bank Bear Stearns bought out by JP Morgan, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailed out, Lehman Brothers go to the wall and British lender Northern Rock nationalized, among a slew of other collapses and state interventions. 2012 brought less drama but still little to cheer.
In the sports world, Beijing’s big and bold Olympics struck a blow for the BRICs in 2008, though London’s impressive effort in 2012 proved the Old World could still put on a show. Former Olympic gold medallist Marion Jones was jailed following steroid abuse – just a few months before cycling hero Lance Armstrong announced a comeback, allegations of doping roundly dismissed. And OJ Simpson finally faced jail, while Oscar Pistorius set a Paralympic record.
In music, Coldplay, AC/DC and Michael Jackson dominated the charts, plans for MJ’s 50-concert This Is It not yet made public. Batman, Bond and Indy shared the big screen with a Kung Fu Panda, the songs of Abba and a Slumdog Millionaire. The original iPhone was spreading round the world and there were 1.55 billion internet users, nearly a billion fewer than today.
And yet some things have changed little. In 2008, Spain were European champions at football, Mitt Romney failed to persuade US voters and Italian politics was in chaos with a comedian emerging as the electoral victor – that year he was called Berlusconi.