From regional sporting events to historic agreements, 2015 is already shaping up to be quite memorable. Y looks into the future to see what’s in store for Oman and the rest of the world
We’ve hardly had time to catch our breath after the 12 action-packed months that made up 2014, but now it’s time to strap on our seatbelts and get ready for the ride that will be 2015.
There might not be a sporting occasion on a par with the football World Cup in Brazil that last year witnessed, but there’s plenty of mouthwatering action featuring Oman’s sportsmen and women to look forward to. By the way, 2015 has been designated as the “International Year of Light” (IYL) by the United Nations. It seems the idea is to raise awareness of the achievements of light science and its importance to mankind. IYL 2015 opening ceremonies will be held in Paris from Jan 19 to 20. Feel free to hold your own celebrations in Oman.
Politically, it could be a momentous year for the Sultanate with the country balanced delicately on the edge of some issues, which could tip Oman in one direction or the other.
Europe is also poised for change and the make-up of the landscape looks to be shifting again. From today (January 1), the Eurasian Economic Union will come into effect for the first time, creating a political and economic alliance between Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. 2105 will also see the European Union boosted by an extra member state as Lithuania officially leaves its own currency, the litas, in favour of the euro. In doing so, it will become the last Baltic nation to join the growing number of EU states that have adopted the euro currency.
The United Kingdom faces a general election this year (May 7) and people will also go the polls in Myanmar, Canada, Turkey, Spain, Uruguay and Somaliland.
Closer to home, could this finally be the year that the unified GCC visa comes into play? There’s been talk of it for some time – rumours surfaced several times in 2014 – but the word seems to be that the six GCC member states are now in agreement that a common visa, allowing freedom of movement between the countries, is the way to go. From January 1, new drivers will be issued with a unified GCC driving licence, the benefits of which are still unclear. The licence – which will be given out for renewals as well – will remain the same apart from the new GCC logo, the Royal Oman Police have advised.
Talk of a single GCC currency has also been doing the rounds for some time, but such a step still seems to be quite a long way off, if it ever happens at all. Oman has already indicated that it wouldn’t wish to be involved and the UAE isn’t keen either.
Don’t forget that Oman also has the 45th National Day to celebrate on November 18 (it falls on a Wednesday this year), when the whole country will turn into a sea of white, red and green again. Hopefully better news about oil prices will be on the way soon, after Oman suffered the lowest dip in five years last month (Dec). We’ll also be waiting to hear any decisions on proposals by the Majlis Al Shura to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol in the Sultanate. The Council of Ministers has to debate this along with recommendations that shisha smoking is prohibited after midnight in cafés. With reports that an alcohol ban could cost Oman up to RO100 million in lost revenue per year, and as fellow GCC state Kuwait is apparently looking at relaxing its blanket drink ban, it remains to be seen whether such a radical move could ever gain backing.
Regionally, there is hope that the bloody conflict in Syria could be brought to an end after indications from the country’s Government at the end of last year that it would be willing to participate in Moscow peace talks.
Away from the twists and turns of politics and machinations to bring about peace, the sporting arenas around the world will see some battles of a different kind.
This month, Oman’s national football team is going for glory in the AFC Asian Cup in Australia, in only their third appearance. Goalkeeper and team captain, Ali al Habsi, will be leading the team out for their opening game against South Korea on January 10. The Red Warriors will be hoping to be in the final in Sydney on January 31.
Between March 8 and 18, the Sultanate plays host to the GCC Women’s Games, which features five events – volleyball, basketball, handball, rowing and athletics. Competitions in athletics, shooting, tennis, taekwondo and endurance horse riding will also be held for athletes with disabilities. Elsewhere, England will stage the 2015 Rugby World Cup in September and Austria is holding the Snowboarding World Championships.
Technology-wise, we can expect the iPhone 7 (speculation has already begun) and Google’s self-driving car will be road-tested for the first time this year (road-users in California had better watch-out).
In July, NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft should reach the planet Pluto and its largest moon. Once there it will spend six months photographing the furthest reaches of the solar system.
As for new arrivals, we will be welcoming a second royal baby into the world, with Prince William and Kate, expecting a brother or sister for Prince George in April. Actress Keira Knightley will become a mum for the first time this year, as will Blake Lively with her Hollywood husband, Ryan Reynolds.
Whatever else happens, it looks like 2015 is going to be quite a year, both at home in Oman and abroad.
Words: Kate Ginn