Wed, Jan 01, 2014 - Page 9 News List

The issues that are to dominate the year

From the surveillance state to food security, the World Cup and missions to map out the galaxy, here is a look at the matters that will likely make headlines this year

By Charles Arthur  /  The Observer, LONDON

British fashion has typically enjoyed a reputation for quirky eccentricity and this year will show whether, with the right investment and promotion, that talent can find a strong international market. With big labels backing the UK’s most promising names, it looks as though this year will be the year when everyone buys British.

SPORT

By David Conn

The sporting year this year is dominated by one midsummer behemoth: the soccer World Cup, this time in the most evocative of soccer countries, Brazil.

The start of the action usually pushes wider social concerns about sport to the sidelines, but after last year’s Confederations Cup was disrupted by mass protests in Brazil over inequality, poor public services and the massive cost of hosting FIFA’s tournament, the Brazilian government is bracing itself for more during the World Cup.

Demonstrations would also increase pointed questions about FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s hugely profitable world soccer governing body, which has been tarnished by corruption scandals yet enjoys tax-free status at home in Switzerland.

The increased scrutiny of sport’s integrity and its authorities’ fitness for purpose will be an issue when the Winter Olympics begins in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7. The amnesties for Pussy Riot and the Greenpeace protesters, and the early release of the jailed oligarch Mikhail Khordokovsky, have been widely interpreted to be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to clearing away potential human rights protest points before the skiing starts.

Cycling’s governing body, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), has promised that an independent commission into the doping abuses of the 1990s and 2000s will begin early in the new year. New British UCI president Brian Cookson has said the commission will examine allegations that the UCI itself was previously complicit with doping, in the years when Lance Armstrong was riding high.

Yet cycling’s doping scandals seem not to have dulled huge British anticipation of this year’s Tour de France, which starts in England on July 5. Le grand depart is to follow a 190km route from Leeds, north England, up the Wharfedale valley and through more splendid Yorkshire countryside before finishing in the town of Harrogate, whose already grand streets are being further spruced up for their moment in the global spotlight.

SCIENCE

By Robin McKie

At 10am on Jan. 20 this year, a tiny electronic chip inside Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft is scheduled to flicker into life. The robot probe is by then to be several hundred million kilometers from Earth, on course for Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Once its circuits, heaters and instruments have been brought to life, the probe is to make its final rendezvous with its target in August, before landing a tiny craft, called Philae, in November.

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