THEY say that the best way to make God laugh is to make plans.
Looking back on any attempt for plans for 2020 is bound to be a little painful for most of us.
Yet same resilience and adaptability of Spain – and the rest of the world – meant it wasn’t all doom and gloom.
Here’s our round up of the last six month from the year we won’t soon forget.
FREEDOM was short-lived in Spain where tourists had hoped the easing of strict coronavirus lockdown would give a chance for summer at least. Barely a month after the government ended its state of emergency, cities including Barcelona, Zaragoza and the capital Madrid saw a surge in infection rates, prompting the UK government to enforce a 14 day quarantine for travellers arriving from Spain.
In Magaluf, partying Brits forced the strip to close after boozed up revelers ignored social distancing rules. Hoping to provide a much-need mood booster, celebrities from around the world (including Wolverine Hugh Jackman and Bill Gates) took part in the world-wide campaign Global Goal to raise funds in the fight against the virus.
The A-lister weren’t the only ones to dip into their cofters. Closer to home, Olive Press celebrated scooping a substantial grant from Google as part of its Journalism Emergency Relief Fund. Speaking of scoops, our investigation into crooked wealth manager Neil Hathaway left quite the paper trail. The scheming financier was caught stealing copies of the Olive Press in an attempt to cover up his links to a fraud investigation.
THINGS warmed up in the Costas as Spain enjoyed record temperatures, with sweltering heat waves hitting the likes of Malaga, Estepona and Coin. Celebrities came out in their droves to soak up the sunshine with the biggest names from sport, music and film fled to Marbella and Ibiza.
Rita Ora and footballers Dele Alli and James Maddison among those basking in the soaring temperatures but where the stars go the rest of us follow – stats revealed that the number of Bits making a new home in Spain had jumped 500% since the Brexit vote in 2016.
Even far-right extremist Tommy Robinson was momentarily tempted to follow the status quo. The former leader of the English Defence League and anti-immigration activist was spotted on the Costa del Sol in living it large at a plush Marbella sportsclub before fleeing to Gibraltar and vowing to make the Rock his new home.
Meanwhile the Spanish government was forced to step in after an English news site claimed the country would go into a second lockdown on September 18.
Fernando Simon, director of health emergencies, made it clear that no such plan has existed. He singled out the story as ‘fake news’ – or a ‘bulo’ in Spanish – in a heated, late-night press conference.
The story, that was published on an English website based in Fuengirola, claimed the government would be introducing the extreme measure next month. Minister of Defence, Margarita Robles, called the report ‘science fiction’.
It was the month that children across Spain returned to classrooms, a rare edition of Shakespeare’s last play was uncovered in a Scottish Catholic college in Spain and Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein spoke out about a multi-million euro gift from Spain’s ex-king and an ill-fated elephant hunt.
Anonymous artist Banksy accused European officials of deliberately ignoring distress signals after a refugee rescue boat he financed was left stranded in the Med. He hit out after his mercy vessel, launched from Valencia in August, failed to receive any help when it came close to sinking, overloaded with over 200 refugees. It came after the ship captain made a distress call after it became marooned due to overloading, with many of the refugees ill and one dead. The British street artist took to social media to attack the slow response saying that ‘EU authorities deliberately ignored the pleas from non-Europeans’
Residents in Costa Blanca revealed they were ‘living in fear’ that as the rainy season approached flooding that had devastated the area in 2019 would return once again. Feeling unsafe at home was a feeling that resonated with our reporter Isha Sesay, who caught COVID-19 despite not stepping out of her front door. Isha was floored by the virus after she contracted it from her landlord when he came into her flat to help her catch a rodent. Luckily Isha is back fighting fit – and ready to rejoin the rat race, working from home in Mallorca. Back in OP HQ, we launched a paywall to safeguard our journalism, maintain our standards and free us from the tyranny of ‘clickbait journalism’.
October saw the Spanish capital and nine nearby given just 48 hours to impose a lockdown as infections rates skyrocketed. As rules intensified in the capital, organised gangs helped squatters get a foothold on the Costa del Sol, taking advantage of the surge of empty holiday homes in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
One British expat told of how she had become scared to leave her own home after squatters took over the property meant for her sick daughter and threatened to kill her entire family.
Tina Cackett, 64, said she was left ‘terrified’ after repeated verbal abuse and swore to take the crooks to court in a bid to reclaim her property.
Residents of La Linea slammed a new Netflix documentary that uncovered the dark underbelly of drug trafficking in the area. After premiering in September it quickly climbed to the number one slot on Netflix Spain’s most viewed chart – but locals raged that they were ‘fed up’ of the city being labeled as a place ‘drug trafficking, debauchery and banditry’.
But in an exclusive interview, La Linea’s mayor told Olive Press that the series was a troubling but accurate reflection of his hometown.
Jose Franco said La Linea was in ‘the eye of the hurricane’ and begged for more support from the central government to tackle the soaring rates of drug crime.
Meanwhile Latin pop star Shakira joined forces with Prince William and David Attenborough to help save the planet. The Waka Waka singer, who’s married to Gerard Piqué, confirmed she will work alongside Prince William and David Attenborough to help select the winners of the Earthshot Prize.
Come November restrictions tightened once again as Spain declared a national state of emergency and imposed a night-time curfew in an effort to help control a new spike in Covid-19 infections.
But just days after Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez imposed a curfew between the hours of 23:00 and 06:00 as the country passed one million cases since the crisis began, with nearly 35,000 fatalities, the government made a swift u-turn.
Spain removed the nationwide curfew from its state of alarm decree, clarifying that the curfew would remain in place only for the 15-day period from when it was first decreed.
From November 9, autonomous communities had the power to lift the restriction if they see fit. Local authorities were also given the ability to ban travel between regions. Finance Minister Maria Jesus Montero said she recognised that citizens are ‘fed up’ with the situation but added it is essential they stay informed and comply with the measures established.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. November brought with it the launch of our sixth edition in Valencia and the Costa Azahar to rave reviews. And the countdown to Christmas felt even more urgent this year as politicians scrambled to secure a Brexit deal before the end of the transition period on December 31.
Boris Johnson assured his cabinet that a Brexit withdrawal deal is ‘there to be done’ as Joe Biden’s stunning US election win sparked a desire to double down on negotiation with the EU.
The year may have been winding down but there was no time to relax: With a pandemic still raging, waves of social change swelling around the globe, and the aftermath of the presidential election and the countdown to Brexit, there was still a lot of history squeezed out of the last month of 2020.
Boris Johnson took negotiations with the European Union down to the wire but he made it just in the nick of time. Elsewhere a deadly blaze at a warehouse in Badalona claimed the life of three people with dozens fleeing. In Barcelona, four lions tested positive for coronavirus at the city’s zoo after coming into contact with an asymptomatic staff member.
The killing of two brown bears on the same day in Spain has prompted investigations.The adult females were shot dead by different hunters, with one claiming to have fired at the bear in self defence. In what has infuriated environmentalists, both animals were killed in conservation zones, in the week a law banning hunting in Spain’s National Parks came into force.
The first bear was shot in the Palencia mountains, in Castilla y Leon region, by a hunter who claimed he thought the creature was a wild boar. A second bear, named Sarousse, was killed during a hunt in the Aragon Pyrenees.
In Valencia corrupt cops and politicians were among two dozen arrested in a major operation against the Russian mafia – a story that is set to run and run.