Missing Live Events? Here is a Look Back at Six That Went off in 2021
December 27, 2021
By David Sonntag
BACKSTAGE, EVENT DESIGN, EVENT INDUSTRY, EVENT PRODUCTION INSPIRATION, LIVE EVENTS, PRODUCTION, VENUES, VIRTUAL EVENTS
Remember 2019? Back when there were large-scale events held. Maybe one that you had attended previously, maybe one that you hadn’t ever attended before but you felt it was time to check it out. So, you’d make plans to attend. You’d buy tickets. You’d make travel arrangements. You’d book childcare. You’d buy a new outfit. You’d attend the event. You’d take lots of pictures. You’d have a great time. And then, you’d wash, rinse, and repeat with another large-scale event a month or two later. Ah, good old 2019.
And then, remember 2020? COVID swept the nation and the world and all large-scale events were canceled or postponed. Some were held as virtual events. There were no travel arrangements to be made. No childcare required. Maybe some new pajamas or sweatpants were in order. You bought your first Zoom Shirt (yes, it’s a thing). No photos taken, what’s the point. It was a meh event. It was a meh year.
And then 2021 rolled around, and along with it a vaccine for COVID. Contraction rates improved. People felt cautiously optimistic about being around others again, with vaccine cards, hand sanitizer, and masks in tow. Some travel was booked. Babysitters began emerging from their COVID-induced exile. New outfits were acquired. And event attendance began to resume.
Here we take a look at six of those large-scale events that went off in 2021.
Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics
In a move that is sure to leave future generations scratching their heads in confusion, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) opted to keep the Toyko 2020 branding for the summer Olympics, despite the event being postponed by one year from 2020 to 2021. Tokyo 2020 was described as “an unprecedented demonstration of unity and solidarity as the world came together for the first time following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic for an Olympic Games focused on the pure essentials: a celebration of athletes and sport.”
From performance-enhancing drug use to boycotts to claims of corruption to participation restrictions, the Olympics are one of the more scandal-ridden large-scale events, and Tokyo 2020 was no exception. Controversies included:
Tokyo reporting record-breaking numbers of COVID cases days after the Olympics began, and only a quarter of eligible citizens being reported as fully vaccinated as the Olympics got underway;
Extreme heat – which in itself isn’t particularly controversial, but the fact that the Olympic bid lied about anticipated weather conditions, claiming “mild and sunny weather” and “an ideal climate for athletes to perform their best” made global headlines;
Beloved American gymnast Simone Biles withdrawing from multiple events due to mental health concerns; and
Reactions from competitors and the general public alike around the inclusion of the first openly transgender athlete, Laurel Hubbard.
The final price tag on the event? Officially, $15.4 billion, although estimates put the actual price tag at closer to $25 billion.
Tom Brady led his Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a decisive 31 – 9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in front of what can only be described as a one-of-a-kind audience that included 30,000 cardboard cut-outs, 7,500 comped health care workers, The Weeknd, a hologram of deceased NFL legend Vince Lombardi, a hairy male streaker in a hot pink thong, Miley Cyrus, and 14,500 football fans. This was an expensive party to attend with tickets starting at $8,000 and going as high as $40,000. It was an ever more expensive party to advertise at with a thirty second ad setting advertisers back by $5.6 million, equating to just over a nickel for each of the 96.4 million viewers.
Fashion’s biggest night out was held on September 13. The Met Gala, which has also been affectionately referred to as an ‘ATM for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’ was more scaled down this year after being canceled in 2020, for only it’s third time in the events’ 73-year history. The theme for this year was “American independence” and Black Lives Matter protestors were congregated outside while attendees rocked can’t-look-away outfits indoors including a 3D head horse bustier (Kim Petras), a gold suit of armor on top of a crystal-inspired bodysuit (Lil Nas X), and a map-patterned, ruffled-sleeved outfit portraying two men kissing (Dan Levy).
Big Weekend, hosted by BBC Radio 1, is the United Kingdom’s largest music festival. The 2021 iteration of the event was four days long (running from May 28 – 31) and featured a variety of popular artists who filmed their 100+ performances at a wide range of iconic backdrops. Like Coldplay, who played their set at Whitby Abbey. Or Ed Sheeran who performed with a lovely English countryside backdrop. Or Royal Blood who performed from a pier. Attendees took it all in online from the comfort of their home.
With an incredibly timely theme of ‘Open a Book, Open the World’, the National Book Festival was jam-packed this year with a wide range of programs and formats. With an amazing vision from the Librarian of Congress and some great hosts including LaVar Burton and Dolly Parton, the event was flawless. From virtual live events to author interviews to a national television special to free in-person events, this year’s festival nicely bridged the worlds of live, virtual, and on-demand events. This literary event, initially founded by Laura Bush in 2001, featured over 100 of the nation’s best authors, poets, and illustrators.
And the Oscar went to…well, lots of different movies, thespians, and supporting personnel, but Nomadland cleaned up quite nicely this year, taking the award for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress. Originally scheduled for February 28th, the event was moved up to April 25th due to COVID safety concerns, and only nominees and presenters were permitted to attend. The public response to this scaled back version of the Academy Awards was lukewarm at best. As Mike Hale from the New York Times described, it was “more like a cross between the Golden Globes and the closing-night banquet of a long, exhausting convention. The trade-off – whether because of the smaller crowd, the social distancing, or the sound quality in the cavernous space – was what felt like a dead room, both acoustically and emotionally. There were powerful and moving speeches, but they didn’t seem to be generating much excitement, and when the people in the room aren’t excited, it’s hard to get excited at home.” As my cat would say, ‘meow’.
Well, there you have it. Six event staples that helped to pave the way for a live event return to pre-COVID times. If your organization is in the market for an event to mark the long-awaited return to pre-COVID times, Decibel Event Management has you covered!