Around the World

Crises, Scandals, Celebrations: 2012 in Review

While 2012 may not have had such defining movements internationally as the Arab Spring of the previous year, it was punctuated by significant events around the world, from crises to scandals to celebrations.

Fighting between rebels and government forces continued in Syria, claiming more than 40,000 lives and exacerbating a humanitarian and refugee crisis. In September, a trailer for an anti-Islam film posted on YouTube led to massive protests worldwide. In an attack still under investigation, Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi. There was also saw a flare-up of tensions between Israel and Hamas, with eight days of violence along the Gaza border. Meanwhile, an economic crisis plagued Europe, with anti-austerity protests in several cities. And in Africa, rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo seized the eastern city of Goma, resisting calls to leave and threatening the capital, Kinshasa.

Elections in several key regions of the world brought new leaders to some countries, while familiar faces retained power as well, including strongmen Vladimir Putin in Russia and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Citizens of Burma elected pro-democracy icon Aung Sung Suu Kyi to parliament. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Libya held its first democratic elections in decades. Egypt's Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, elected in June, later took the most undemocratic step of granting himself sweeping powers. And in China, a once-in-a-decade power shift saw a new communist leadership in place.

The year also saw some notable celebrations. The spotlight was on Queen Elizabeth II as she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, 60 years on the throne of England. Later, London welcomed the world's best athletes for the 30th Summer Olympics. And in a celebration for science, NASA's rover -- aptly named Curiosity -- touched down on Mars after an eight month journey from Earth.

  • Tennis-Down but not out, Djokovic just glad to make final

    By Ian Ransom MELBOURNE, Jan 30 (Reuters) - A solemn Novak Djokovic will look for positives from his previous clashes at Melbourne Park after playing arguably his worst match of the tournament in edging a mentally "dead" Stan Wawrinka in five sets on Friday. Djokovic will meet sixth seed Andy Murray in his fifth final at Melbourne Park but is unlikely to glean inspiration from a video review of the match against Wawrinka, who later described himself as "mentally completely dead" with "no battery". "I can say I'm glad, of course I'm happy and satisfied to go through," Djokovic told reporters, devoid of his usual good humour.

  • Serena and Sharapova's 'black heart' rivalry
    Serena and Sharapova's 'black heart' rivalry

    The bitter rivalry between Australian Open finalists Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova took root on the hallowed Wimbledon turf in 2004 and is still thriving more than a decade later -- both on and off the court. The problem was, the fairytale victory that catapulted her to global celebrity came at the expense of Serena Williams -- top seed at the time and hot favourite for a third straight Wimbledon title -- a result that the American has never forgotten. It has spurred her on to an overall record of 16-2 against Sharapova, with the Russian's last victory over the world number one coming more than a decade ago. Since 2005, the American's winning streak is 15-0, including straight sets wins over Sharapova in the Australian and French Open finals (2007 and 2013), as well as the gold medal match at the 2012 London Olympics.

  • Tennis-Williams bids to continue tyranny of Sharapova

    By Ian Ransom MELBOURNE, Jan 30 (Reuters) - One of the few players with the game to trouble Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova's decade-long losing streak to the American great is one of the more curious anomalies in women's tennis. Sharapova was a 17-year-old sensation when she last beat Williams at the title-decider of her debut at the season-ending Tour Finals in 2004. It has all been one-way traffic since with Williams notching 15 successive victories on all surfaces, a record that Sharapova has been reminded of, again and again, before her bid to break the streak in the Australian Open women's final on Saturday. "I go into matches where I've beaten opponents and I don't want to focus on that because I don't want to get overly confident going onto the court," Sharapova said on Friday.

  • Djokovic beats Wawrinka to reach Australian Open final

    MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic will contest the final of the Australian Open with Andy Murray after beating defending champion Stan Wawrinka 7-6(1) 3-6 6-4 4-6 6-0 on Friday. Djokovic will bid to become the first man in the professional era to win five titles at Melbourne Park. (Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by ...)