- Title: VARIOUS: LIFE! Review of the Year 2008/YEARENDER Part 2
- Date: 17th December 2008
- Summary: BEIJING, CHINA (JULY 9, 2008) (REUTERS) PEOPLE CASHING NEW OLYMPIC MONEY AT BANK BEIJING, CHINA (JULY 9, 2008) (REUTERS) MAN PLACING ACUPUNCTURE NEEDLES WITH FLAGS ATTACHED AROUND HEAD AND FACE FOR THE OLYMPICS ONLOOKERS MORE OF MAN PERFORMING 'OLYMPIC ACUPUNCTURE' BEIJING, CHINA (JULY 10, 2008) (REUTERS) CLOSE UP OF TATTOO IN PROGRESS BACK OF TATTOOED HEAD. SHOT OF MAN, LIU MING, WITH OLYMPIC RINGS AND 'BEIJING 2008' TATTOOED ON FOREHEAD HONG KONG, CHINA (JULY 24, 2008) (REUTERS) CLOSE UP OF HOUSE OF CARDS BEING BUILT. PAN ACROSS HOUSE OF CARDS BEIJING, CHINA (AUGUST 8, 2008) (REUTERS) OLYMPIC COUNTDOWN CLOCK FLAME BURNING OUTSIDE STADIUM MAN CHEERING WITH CHINESE FLAG PAINTED ON FACE 171 VARIOUS OF FIREWORKS OVER OLYMPIC STADIUM (4 SHOTS) HUGE CROWD FILLING STREET CHEERING IN FRONT OF BIG SCREEN
- Reuters ID: LVAEC4JRSOU5PPB09ONMHEMPCB28
- Duration: 00:01:04
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
- Story Text: OLYMPICS:
The eyes of the world were on China as the nation prepared to host the biggest event of the year: the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Beginning with a dramatic journey with the Olympic torch that took the flame to the summit of Mt Everest, China launched into a publicity campaign leading up to the Games, well aware of a lot of the negative attention generated by protests on their human rights records - particularly in relation to the occupation of Tibet.
The first and final torch bearers in the relay were both Tibetan women.
But, downplaying negative politics, China aimed at the opportunity to showcase it's cultural heritage to the world.
And everyone, it seemed, got involved.
Across the country children trained as athletes in the country's sports schools, dreaming to become future Olympic stars. There are 23,000 state-supported athletes in the pyramid structure that makes up China's sports system, with schools starting children's training for eventual Olympic glory as young as 6 years old.
All kinds of schools of talent were encouraged to get into the Olympic spirit from the nation's top national acrobatic troupe, to the 21 hearing impaired dancers of the China Special Art Troupe.
Athletes and performers weren't the only ones who had to undertake gruelling training amongst fierce competition.
Young women were put through the paces to be in top form as ushers for the event. If they cleared the minimum 1.68 metre height requirement and proved they had the perfect smile (to be worn at all times), the applicants - mostly students - went on to compete with hundreds of others for a chance to become one of the 32 official ushers.
As well as the personal human touch of a warm welcome, five robots modelled after the official Olympic mascots, "the five friendlies"
or "Fuwa", entertained travellers arriving at the new terminal in Beijing.
Designed to express the playful qualities of children, the Fuwa were created to embody natural characteristics of four of China's most popular animals - the Fish, the Panda, the Tibetan Antelope, the Swallow with the fifth is represented the Olympic Flame.
While giving visitors a first class greeting Olympic organisers also wanted to make sure their foreign guests felt at home, which is why hundreds of Chinese chefs travelled to England to learn how to cook Western dishes. The task was an Olympian challenge in itself, as the cooks had five days to learn unfamiliar Western dishes to serve up to the tourist hordes.
While the chefs were learning new dishes, back in Beijing restaurants were putting extra care into the presentation of local cuisine.
China has a long tradition in food sculptures and carving-- a lengthy process reserved for special occasions or the arrival of honoured guests. 2008 saw restaurants across the country offering Olympic or sports related dishes.
Quanjude restaurant, most famous for it's roast duck, was one of many establishments which created an elaborate sports themed menu, with edible disciplines including golfing, tennis and archery.
Naturally, it was more than just food on display in Beijing.
In their first appearance outside a museum space, China's most famous clay soldiers - the Terracotta army buried with China's first emperor Qing Shihuangwere - moved all the way from Xi'an in Shaanxi province to sit near the iconic Olympic structures of the Bird's nest and Watercube.
The clay warrior's outing was far from the only break with tradition for the Games. The central bank of China dropped the the image of the country's former leader, Mao Zedong, from six million new 10-yuan notes to commemorate the Olympics, the first time in almost a decade that China has issued its currency without Mao's face on it.
Thousands of citizens in Beijing queued in front of a Bank of China branch for nearly 20 hours, just to get one of the notes.
One side of the new cyan-blue-coloured note features the Olympic venue of the National Stadium. The 'Chinese Seal, Dancing Beijing' Games emblem, designed to look like the red-inked Chinese character stamps used since imperial times, is positioned above the nest, with the capital's historic Temple of Heaven public park as a backdrop. The reverse side features an ancient Greek marble statue of a discus-thrower, portraits of athletes and the numeral '2008'.
As Olympics fever gripped the entire nation, fans celebrated the event in their own - sometimes very particular - way.
Self-taught acupuncturist Wei Shengchu demonstrated his love of the Games by sticking 205 needles into his head, each bearing a different national flag for all of the participating countries. The crowning glory was a needle shaped like the Olympic torch which he slid neatly into his brow.
Meanwhile Beijinger, Liu Ming, was looking for space on his body to add more tattoos to the 200 that already covered him.
The 44-year-old added Olympic themed tattoos to the mix, starting with five Olympic rings and the Beijing 2008 logo inked onto his forehead.
And the Guinness World Record holder in card stacking completed his tribute to the games with a 2.5 metre x 6 metre playing card replica of Olympic monuments including such Beijing landmarks such as the National Stadium, better known as "the Bird's Nest," the National Aquatics Center, and the Beijing TV Centre.
When the opening night of the Games finally arrived crowds of thousands packed into the streets to watch the opening ceremony on huge screens. A massive fireworks display was launched from the National Stadium, which made for a spectacular sight, even without the benefit of the computer generated effects added to the television broadcast of the event.
But you didn't have to be involved with the Olympics to celebrate the spirit of competition.
All over the world, the year saw championships, contests and competitions, some with a rich history of tradition, and some brand new and downright bizarre.
Almost 1,000 people from 20 countries went to the town of Nemea, 108 km southwest of Athens, to recreate the ancient Nemean Games for a day.
The Nemean games, which according to Myth Hercules performed in, began in 573 BC, but have been brought back to life in modern times by those wanting to get a feel for how competitions like the present day Olympics played out in times of times of antiquity.
Tradition aside, for some, faster times call for faster sports - like the the World Downhill Skateboarding and Street Luge Championships takes place in Eastbourne.
While those speed demons got their thrills with downhill racing, hundreds of others proved their mettle with an uphill struggle for the Annual Empire State Building run up.
And there were those who raced not for money, the thrill, or any medals, but in the hope of being the year's "Lucky Person."
2,500 people made a chaotic dash through the grounds of Nishinomiya Shrine which is dedicated to the god Ebisu, a patron of business men and merchants. The winner of the race is believed to be bestowed with a year of good fortune.
While in Sydney, a slightly more treacherous element was added to a foot race as Australian women strapped on their high heels in an attempt to break the world record for "the most number of people ever to participate in a stiletto sprint" near the Sydney Harbour Bridge. More than 260 women sprinted across the 80-metre distance for the prize money of 5,000 Australian dollars.
Another female-only race was always going to attract some tough competition, given the stakes: a chance for a soon-to-be-bride to win 25,000 U.S. dollars towards their dream wedding and honeymoon. 10 brides, all dressed in gowns and white helmets equipped with veils scrambled up a 10 foot giant cake slice in New York's Times Square for the prize.
And 25 Lithuanian babies proved you're never too young to start competing, as they were set against each other in a crawling race to mark International Child Protection Day.
At their tender age the babies understandably lacked the discipline for a tough race - or even the awareness that they were in one - although some did eventually make it over the line.
But for a spectator sport that truly tests the patience of the fans you can't go past the World Snail Racing Championships in England, with the winning gastropod setting the cracking pace of 3 minutes and 2 seconds over the 33-centimetre course.
To the casual observer the winners, rules, or objective of the traditional Indian sport of Kabaddi may not be as clear as a straightforward race, but the international competitors drawn to the tournament at Bathinda in India's northern Punjab were still entertained the crowd as they dodged, ran, wrestled and their way through the game.
Another contest you don't see everyday that drew an impressive crowd of spectators was the tenth annual 'Single Axle' race took off in the rural town of Dexheim, southwest of Frankfurt. All manner of agricultural equipment usually used for farming was transformed into racing vehicles on a decidedly rural circuit.
For a less demanding championship 77 contestants converged at the Cultural Hall of the Ushiku Central Lifelong Study Center, some 90 kilometres north of the Japanese capital, vying to be the lucky one to clinch the top prize at the 35th International Whistlers Convention.
As the name implies, all they had to do to make the dream come true was put their lips together and blow (better than the other contenders).
Japanese children discovered a tournament to pass the time on their holidays - one where they provide the competitors. Half-way through the summer vacation Japanese students gathered in Tokyo to their pet Rhino Beetles battle it out at the year's beetle wrestling finals.
But not all competitions are a test of speed, strength or skill. For those with no discernible talent, there are always the World Air Guitar Championships.
The thirteenth World Championship saw 20 air guitar players from 16 countries travel to Oulu, Finland, to blow crowds away with absolutely no musical skills thrashed out on no instruments.
While pretending to play an instrument is one thing you can do to music, it probably won't be replacing the ever popular activity of dancing to it.
That too, has always harboured the competitive spirit to impress on the dance-floor, as seen at the sixth annual World Tango Championships in downtown Buenos Aires.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was a winning Argentine couple who swept the floor with the other dancers, showing the competition how their seductive national dance is done.
But the simplest competitions are always those where the participants go straight for the prize, like the Indonesian sport of 'panjat pinang' (palm tree trunk climbing).
For more than a thousand people at a Jakarta amusement park in Indonesia, there were no fancy dance steps but a climb straight to the top of greased palm tree trunks to claim their reward. There were more presents to go around than usual for the year just passed, with the amusement park erecting at least 260 trunks to celebrate the country's 63rd Independence Day.
2008 also marked the emergence of some brand new competitions, like the first German Championships in Office Chair Racing. 70 competitors seat in the fast lane for a 170 metre downhill race to the finish line in Bad Koenig-Zell, Germany.
With organisers already planning the 2009 Championships, how race long the will continue is anyone's guess.
Speaking of sports which combine recklessness and a complete lack of finesse to produce an awkward spectacle, the year also saw the fourth annual World Water Bombing Championship, attracted 36 competitors from across the UK and beyond. The rules were simple: bigger the splash the better the score.
Also making a splash were the contestants in the Red Bull Flugtag in London's Hyde Park. 80,000 spectators watched contenders attempt to fly all manner of home-made crazy contraptions over the longest distance before crashing into the Serpentine River.
On the other hand, no feats of engineering were necessary to win the World Custard Pie Championships in Kent, England, just a good throwing arm and plenty of 'ammunition'.
31 teams were armed with 2,600 empty pastry pies filled with 700 pounds of a flour-and-water mixture for their 'custard' for the knockout style pie fight.
But the year's quieter competitions proved to be no less intense.
Requiring more concentration - from competitors and spectators alike - than the pie-fights, was the World Marble Championships held in West Sussex, England.
There couldn't have been a more appropriate site of the tournament: the town of Tinsley Green is reputed to be the scene of an epic marbles battle in Elizabethan times over the hand of a local maiden.
Then there are the contests that you definitely can't hold around your local neighbourhood.
At any other time or place it would get you arrested, but at the 2008 Figure Eight World Final, charging around the track in a car, then crossing each other's paths in the middle of the circuit, is the name of the game. The lucky winner earned a wildcard entry into the Unlimited World Final, while the rest of the drivers had to settle for the - still excellent - consolation prize of not being killed.
Hoping they've created a contest that will turn into an annual event of it's own, organisers of introduced a contest new to their part of Siberia. 8 bikini clad girls from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk took part in the city's first regional mud wrestling competition with only three rules: no biting, no scratching and no hair-pulling.
Sometimes the competition is all about how you look, which is why the Eastern Bavarian Beard Club and Moustache established the German beard and moustache championships. More than 100 men from around the world participated in the championships to gain official confirmation on the quality of their facial hair.
One record breaking feat in 2008 was a part of a family legacy. The son of legendary stuntman Evel Knievel, Robbie "Kaptain" Knievel, broke one of his late father's records when he successfully jumping over 24 buses on his motorcycle at the Kings Island park. 30 years earlier his father had cleared 14 at the same venue.
A much less risky spectacle was the sight of 1,360 soda and mentos fountains going off simultaneously. That particular achievement - which set a new world record - came courtesy of a Belgium student association.
Some record holders don't have to do anything but be themselves.
Svetlana Pankratova (Holder of Guinness world record for longest female legs) and He Pingping (Holder of Guinness world record for world's shortest man) clearly demonstrated that as they posed together on steps of Trafalgar Square for their entry into the 2008's Guinness Book of Records.
It takes a bit more effort for five-year-old limbo skater Sudrishti to get attention as she performs unique stunts to the admiration and surprise of the locals.
Her father said he recognised her skating skills when she was 3 years old and was determined to promote them.
Meanwhile, in Malaysia's historical city of Malacca, Kung-Fu Master Ho Eng Hui draws his fair share of attention by breaking coconuts with his index finger. For eight years he has spent every weekend performing on the street to help promote state tourism and ell his multi-purpose medication.
"Less is more" often doesn't come into it when people are out to set new some world records, whether it's Israeli hair stylist Danny Bargil using 10 scissors to haircut to break his own Guinness World Record, or the more than a thousand barbecue fanatics smashing the record for world's biggest barbecue in Uruguay by cooking up 12 metric tonnes (26,400 lbs) of beef on a grill nearly a mile long.
But requiring more than just quantity, some record attempts need serious training, as with Steve Truglia's bid for a death-defying jump from the upper stratosphere. The former SAS soldier spent 2008 testing his limits in tunnel jumps to break the record for a high altitude parachute jump from more than 20 miles above the surface of the earth.
But sometimes even the best preparation can't prevent disaster, as French parachutist Michel Fournier discovered when he was robbed of his chance to leap 40km (25 miles) in an attempt to set a new world-record freefall. The 64 year old former French Army colonel could only watch on helplessly as the balloon from which he was going to jump malfunctioned and was carried off by the wind.
One 2008 adventure ended up as a tragic reminder of how dangerous such attempts can be. Brazilian priest Father Adelir Antonio de Carli was last seen floating off on a chair attached to thousand helium balloons as a stunt to raise money for a local chapel.
Rescue workers said they had given up hope of finding De Carli alive after five days of non-stop searches over Brazil's southern coast.
A safer stunt that brought in a new record for 2008, was German Rafael Mittenzwei's act of skating 208.4 kilometres in 24 hours in the German town of Gross-Gerau. The twist to the deed being that he was travelling backwards the entire time.
Pushing the limits of what is possible is what captures the imagination and admiration of so many. Few feats of the past year illustrated this as strikingly as that of 'Fusion Man' - the first man to successfully fly for nearly ten minutes at a peak speed of 300 km/h, using a fuel powered engine.
Yves Rossy, a Swiss former military pilot and Airbus commander for Swiss airlines, completed an official demonstration in the Swiss Chablais region, where he was released from a plane at 8,000 feet (2,438metres) with his wing folded.
Although impressive feats always garner attention, some people are hard to miss even when they're not doing anything.
Mexico's Manuel Uribe, once the world's most obese man, became something of a celebrity again when he tied the knot.
While some people back out of marriage, the happy groom backed into it: hoisted onto a flat bed truck in his bed and taken to the spot where he would wed his bride, Claudia Solis.
It was only the third time he has left his house since being confined to his bed.
FASHION: The world of fashion, as always, provided glamour throughout the year.
The top Fashion houses previewed their 2009 collections at fashion weeks in Milan, Paris, Rome, London, New York, Tokyo, where everything from simple stylish designs to creations unlikely ever to be worn in public were showcased.
But it wasn't just fashion elite who could put on a show.
In downtown Madrid prostitutes staged a sassy fashion show to protest gentrification and to show that they are no threat to community harmony. Knee high red boots and suspender belts were among the suitably provocative wardrobe paraded by the city's sex workers And in London a new fashion fad caused a stir with "masked hoodie" outfits. Some considered the hooded jackets that came with a zip up mask which completely covers the face to be an intimidating fashion statement.
And New York saw some really sweet designs on the catwalk at the year's superhero themed Chocolate Fashion Show.
In the year of the American elections politics also played a part in fashion trends.
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin Palin started making headlines, not just for her career path, but her eye-wear as well. Her rimless eyeglasses catching eyes nation-wide, prompting retailers to stock up on the frames.
Another event in the fashion world was the 70th birthday of one of it's most celebrated designers. In the year of his birthday Karl Lagerfeld designed 2,500 limited edition teddy bears made in his own image, sporting his customary sunglasses black suit and tie.
Most fashion shows are strictly elite affairs, for the "in"
crowd only, but that couldn't stop comic actor Sasha Baron-Cohen, best known for his outrageous characters Borat and Ali-G, from crashing the catwalk at Agatha Ruiz de la Prada's show in Milan, bringing the proceedings to a halt as security guards stepped in.
Cohen was in Milan making a new film in the guise of his latest character, Bruno, a flamboyant Austrian fashionista.
WEIRD AND WONDERFUL: The year provided it's share of strange and amazing sights.
Famous Japanese pianist Yosuke Yamashita created his own piece of art, playing a burning piano until it was gutted by fire.
Breaking a 35 year silence with a sunset performance on at beach in Ishikawa Prefecture, western Japan, the 66-year-old Yamashita, wearing a protective clothing, played an improvised jazz piece on the blazing piano before an audience of around 500 people. In doing so, he created one of the more striking and compelling images of the year.
India has always provided many world record makers, either for their amazing skills or attributes.
Radhakant Bajpai is one of the attribute people.
Hailing from India's northern Kanpur he made it into the Guinness Book of World Record for growing the longest ear tufts.
Bajpai's ear tufts measured 13.2 cm (5.19 inches) when he first created the record in 2003, but have now grown to almost 25 cm.
Aspiring to create a world record and gaining entry into the Guinness Book of World Records, Ansar Sheikh, a hairdresser in India's northern Uttar Pradesh attempted a unique feat of non-stop haircutting with his mouth.
And painter at Kollam in India's southern Kerala state displays extraordinary talent by making tasteful paintings with his tongue. Ani K, a drawing teacher at a school in Kollam has come up with unique painting technique using his tongue as a painting brush on canvas, not because he is disabled, bit simply because he wanted to do something different.
One of the more startling sights around a Lucknow train station in India's northern Uttar Pradesh is the "Monkeyman".
Dressed as a monkey, Acchan Miyan alias Gudde, a resident of Takvapur village in Lucknow district has been working overtime to scare away monkeys from the Charbag railway station.
Gudde wasn't so much looking for attention as he was driven by poverty to dress up to entertain people for money, but has found that his act is now a much appreciated service.
Making an equally startling first impression is Robert "Wetback" Rubio - client of Texas body piercer Tyson Turk and human pin cushion.
The two men set a new record in the field of body-piercing using surgical needles - Rubio was pierced with 900 of them on his 37th birthday.
2008 also had it's share of eye catching stunts with a message.
Thousands of nude cyclists rode through city streets around the world on the same day to protest against cars and promote the bicycle as an efficient method of urban transport.
Anoher unusual sight that captured the hearts of Brazilian soccer fans was the team made up of dwarves country's northern region.
The world's first dwarves only soccer team, named "Giants of the North," are led by professional coach, Carlos Lucena, began practising in January to take on local youth teams.
Lucena said the team spreads joy throughout the state of Para.
'Jallikattu'--Indian or bull fighting or taming the bull, is a spectacle that will be seen for the last time in 2008 - at least legally.
Squashing an earlier High Court verdict to continue the game, the Supreme Court put a complete ban on the event, citing animal abuse as the main reason.
Safety of humans might be a factor too - the objective of Jallikattu is to grab bounty held in a cloth bag tied between the horns of an agitated bull.
Often the bull is given liquor or steroids to make it more aggressive.
Another vision turning head's is that of a very unique security guard.
The rough-and-tumble neighbourhood in Bogota now has its own crusader against crime - a security guard dressed as Osama bin Laden.
Fernando Aguirre patrols the streets of Santa Fe - one of Bogota's most dangerous neighbourhoods - dressed as the al-Qaeda leader - and even claims to be his son.
Ever since September 11, 2001, Aguirre adopted the look of Osama bin Laden in the belief his presence on the mean streets of Bogota would help cut crime and bring order to an area rife with crime, prostitution and drug-dealing.
Meanwhile honest pottery makers trying to make a living off their ceramic penises faced the threat of bankruptcy in their small Portuguese village.
When Francisco and Casilda Figueiredo, 68 and 65, eventually retire they may close a chapter on a proud, age-old Portuguese handicraft - making ornamental ceramic penis statues.
For more than three decades, the sprightly but elderly couple have carefully shaped thousands of ceramic male organs, moulding them into upright shapes and painting them in life-like colours to be exported to Germany, France and North America - but they've found that demand for phallic ceramic has dropped off.
Hopefully the couple won't be getting a visit from "The Debt Collector in Top Hat and Tails."
That's a translation to English of "El Cobrador del Frac", the name of a company which specializes in sending men dressed like extras from a 1930s Fred Astaire movie to humiliate debtors into paying up. It's business is booming.
And British artist Nasser Azam took to the sky to create two large triptychs at zero gravity for his latest project, Life in Space.
He lead a team of five artists into a specially modified Russian transport IL-76 as they flew 23,000 feet into the air.
The artist said he wanted to make art inspired by weightlessness.
Italian scientists seemed to achieve the same effect of weightlessness - enough so that they could walk on water.
The demonstration involved thoroughly mixing corn starch in a swimming-pool to show that everybody can walk on water.
Brazilian prisoners proved the lengths to which they will go to smuggle in contraband.
Authorities uncovered carrier pigeon scheme used to deliver drugs and mobile phones to inmates at a penitentiary in Sao Paulo state. Jail's security guards only began to suspect the pigeons had a connection to the increasing amount of drugs and phones inside the cells after they observed some birds were having difficulty in flying.
The speculation was confirmed once prison officers found out that some of the birds had small backpacks attached to them.
Another event from 2008 that may yet catch on was seen in Strachur, Scotland as it played host to the filthiest game of football you are ever likely to see; swamp soccer.
The sport is fast becoming a world-wide phenomenon, being was introduced to the UK for the first time two years ago, when a host of international teams descended on the small Scottish town. 2008 heralded the first ever World Cup championships.
Entering it's 21st year, on the other hand, the Australian capital of Canberra hosted the country's biggest and best-known car festival of 110,000 fans who came to see the latest chromed and airbrushed street machines.
The hot-rod car festival staged everything from stuntmen shows to spinning cars burning their tyres.
Fire-fighters had to rescue one stuntmen from his car which was engulfed by flames after it drove through a bus and rammed into a pile of cars.
Those firebugs who want to get a little closer to the heat might want to consider visiting the town of Nejapa in El Salvador where, for young men, throwing fireballs (made of burning gasoline soaked rags) at each other has become an annual church occasion.
Every year on August 31 young men hurl burning projectiles at one another in honour of a huge volcanic eruption in 1922 that forced all of the residents to abandon the town.
The fireballs are used because locals say the hot lava that flowed from the volcano was actually the local Christian Saint Jeronimo fighting the devil with balls of fire.
OPULENCE: Although it became a year of financial crisis, there was still excess and opulence to be found.
One Japanese jewellery maker unveiled what would have to be the world's most expensive frock, a gown made of 1.2 million U.S. dollars worth of gold coins.
The shimmering dress weighs a staggering eight kilograms.
For a truly decadent meal, try starting with a set of tableware made of pure gold, as displayed at Japan's Ginza Tanaka jewellery shop at a price of 1 million U.S. dollars.
And as the ultimate accessory for those who really don't have to worry about money, there is the handbag that's worth more than all the cash you could fit into it.
The Diamond encrusted platinum handbag, also created by Japanese jewellery house Ginza Tanaka, is valued at over 1 million British pounds (1.9 million U.S. dollars).
And at a time when it seems everyone has an iPod, having one made of gold with a diamond encrusted handset would set it aside from the rest.
Unfortunately the iDiamond, designed by Norwegian jewellery designer Thomas Heyerdahl, is not for sale but was made to go on auction for charity..
Closing the year on a high note, Christie's sold an extremely rare, 17th-century fancy deep greyish-blue diamond for 16.39 million pounds (24.3 million USD), setting a world record price for any diamond or piece of jewellery sold from a private collection at auction.
It was part of the dowry of the Infanta Margarita Teresa (1651-1673) upon her engagement to Leopold I of Austria.
But serving as a reminder that if you have it, others will want it, was the brazen heist in which armed robbers stole millions of euros worth of gems in a raid on the luxury Harry Winston jewellers off the Champs Elysees in Paris.
Three men entered the shop and forced staff to hand over almost all of the jewels on display before making their getaway. French media estimated the value of the haul at anywhere between 47 million euros and 62 million euros (60 million-80 million U.S. dollars), but police said it was too early to be sure of the exact sum.
Financial markets may be rocky and bankers' bonuses down - but for the diner with cash to burn a London restaurant launched the city's most expensive fixed-price seven course menu at 1,000 pounds a head.
Aiming at bankers, lawyers and other denizens of London's rich financial district known as the "City" who did receive a bonus this year, restaurant Vivat Bacchus says the menu is actually a reasonable price.
It includes a vodka and seven glasses of wine including a 1963 port and a glass of Chateau Lafite Rothchild normally costing 700 pounds a bottle.
"Hopefully the market is better next year and the bonuses are bigger and the world economy is back to normal," Neleen Strauss, the restaurants co-owner told Reuters right before the 2008 credit crunch.
But with a bleak outlook for 2009, many might not be worrying so much about where their next thousand pound meal is coming from.
The job market has already become a more aggressive environment, now that there are monkeys to compete with.
Like at the Kayabukiya tavern, or "sake house", in the city of Utsunomiya north of Tokyo, which employs a pair of Japanese macaque called Yat-chan and Fuku-chan (pronounced Yat-tchan and Fookoo-chan) to serve their customers.
The monkeys work for beans and are, according to their employer, more efficient than some of their human colleagues.
Just another reminder that, moving into 2009, it's a jungle out there.
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