2021: The Year in Review
After the difficulties of 2020, this year was supposed to be one of hope and recovery for the Cuban cigar industry as well as the wider world. Most of us began the year subject to a range of restrictions on our local movement, social and business lives and ability to travel to our favourite foreign destinations. Sadly, more than a few of us are ending the year in a similar situation, albeit with slightly (and thankfully) less stringent rules than last time around. What has passed in between has been a year of tumult and frustration, both of which were born of rapidly-changing responses to the global health situation. As a society we have developed a commendable agility while navigating all the twists and turns which have suddenly sprung up before us in the last 12 months. This is just one positive to be taken from 2021, and we would do well to remember the other things which have brought us joy this year, as opposed to focusing on the constraints which bookend it.
2021 was supposed to be the antidote to 2020; the return to the lives we had all enjoyed before lockdowns and lateral flows, and the recompense for the sacrifices we made to keep the world as healthy as possible. There may have been falters and back-steps, but some things did go well – here are a few highlights.
Italy lifted the Euro 2020 trophy at Wembley
Europe’s flagship football tournament kept its name despite being delayed by a year and made sure the anniversary celebrations which led to its being held across the continent, as opposed to in one host country, went with a bang. Over 1 million fans attended matches across the 4 week festival, with around 2 billion individuals across the globe tuning in to live broadcast. Those who did were treated to goals, controversy, and an eventual triumph for Italy, who held their nerve in a penalty shootout to defeat England on their home turf. It may have been a long time coming, but this tournament was worth the wait.
Extraordinary sportsmanship at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics
The Tokyo Olympics
Just as anticipated after a 12-month delay was the Tokyo Olympics. Local restrictions meant that no fans were in attendance, but those watching on television – all 3 billion of them – bore witness to the inauguration of golf and skateboarding as Olympic sports, an incredible display of sportsmanship as Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy agreed to share the men's high-jump golf after finishing tied, and Sifan Hassan managed to win her 1,500m heat despite falling in the final lap. The Dutch runner went on to claim bronze in the event, along with golds in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. Records were broken and milestones reached in most disciplines, making the 32nd Olympiad a resounding success in spite of the empty seats in the stands.
The Habanos World Days 2021 was a resounding success
Habanos World Days
The Habanos Festival usually takes place early in the year, to coincide with the tobacco harvest. The prohibition of flights in 2020 saw the event cancelled and replaced by the inaugural Habanos World Days Festival, held entirely online and serving as the release announcement for the years new Limited Edition cigars. Such was the success of the new format, which allowed everyday smokers as well as the usual select group of journalists, distributors and dignitaries to engage with the process, it will be continued alongside the physical festival in the foreseeable future. Highlights included virtual tours around the farms and factories, video seminars by leading Cuban industry figures in pairing, creating and marketing cigars, and a celebration of the 55th anniversary of Cohiba. An online quiz even gave viewers the chance to win a trip to the next event, due to be held in Havana as soon as condition permit.
The Blue Origin space tourism vehicle: technical marvel, aesthetic atrocity
The New Space Race
No fewer than 3 private enterprises, led by competing billionaires, led tourist flights to the edge of space in 2021. This news has not been greeted universally as good, given the expense of the projects and the alternative destinations for the funds funnelled into them, but the achievement of reaching an area outside our planet’s atmosphere is always impressive. There are clearly some serious concerns over the morality of how some of these fortunes have been earned, but the quest to reach past our Earth into the skies has long been proven to inspire the population as a whole, and lead both directly and indirectly to technological advances which benefit humankind enormously. Whatever your views on whether individuals should hold such wealth and power, or the frankly bizarre shape chosen by Jeff Bezos for his Blue Origin vehicle (it’s too obvious to have been overlooked, which means it was deliberate), the newfound ease with which space can be reached is a leap forward in science which should be celebrated.
Each of these events demonstrate, in their own way, the ability of the human race to overcome, to innovate and to inspire, no matter what the obstacles placed in our way. 2021 may not have been the antithesis of 2020 we all craved, but it still provided plenty of cheer. 2022 is only a few days away, and we will all light up cigars over the next week to toast its arrival with hope and optimism, as well we should. It will no doubt bring wonder and delight to far outstrip any hardships on the horizon. Have a Happy New Year, everyone.