Ring in the old in 2021

Nepali archer training for the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: NEPAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE

As Nepal plunges headfirst into 2021, it is worth reflecting back on a year of cancelled, postponed, or improvised events. Weddings and graduations to cricket tournaments and international conferences, all had to be cancelled or put off.

Visit Nepal 2020 was an early casualty to the pandemic, and the lockdown wrecked the tourism industry. But there is some cautious optimism about numbers picking up in 2021.

There were advantages to cancelled events, virtual exhibitions and festivals meant geography was no longer a barrier.

Organisers are looking forward to holding these cancelled physical events in 2021:

Sustainable Summits

During the 4th Sustainable Summits at Chamonix in France, Nepal won the contract to host the 5th edition of the international event in Kathmandu in 2020. It was slated for June and had to be postponed. The organisers released a 50-minute video in which leaders and experts spoke about the impact of the climate crisis on the Himalaya.

The Sustainable Summits 2021 will now be held virtually as well as physically from 31 May to 4 June at ICIMOD headquarters in Kathmandu, just ahead of the Climate Summit COP26 in Glasgow. The Glasgow Summit was itself postponed and is a vital step to heal the planet.

“The situation is getting more urgent with climate change, and the Himalaya is getting more and more focus because we're seeing the effects of glacial retreat and permafrost cracking underneath houses in Khumbu,” says Lisa Choegyal, who is part of the organising committee fo the four-day summit.

“The fact that we’ve got COP26 coming up means Sustainable Summits has grown to being something that can make a global statement and achieve lasting change,” Choegyal says. “In a way, we’ve taken a step up to be global leaders as opposed to being a voice on the side.”

One of the beneficial side-effects of the global pandemic is that global carbon emissions actually decreased in 2020 despite forest destruction that decreased land sinks for CO2.

Kathmandu Triennale 2017. Photos: SHRAJESH TULADHAR, GOPEN RAI and ANUJ ARORA

Kathmandu Triennale

The Siddhartha Art Foundation’s second Kathmandu Triennale was supposed to be in 2020 and was supposed to explore multiple discourses on decolonisation, migration, indigenous knowledge.  It has been pushed to the second half of 2021, and will feature works from over 100 artists and collaborators from more than 40 countries.

The Triennale will run for a month at multiple venues including the Nepal Art Council, The Taragaon Museum, Patan Museum, The Chhauni Museum, Siddhartha Art Gallery, and the Bahadur Shah Baithak. The exhibitions will be curated by Cosmin Costinas of Para Site in Hong Kong, as well as Sheelasha Rajbhandari and Hit Man Gurung.

“The Triennale format has enabled us to link with all the Biennale and Triennale happening around the world in 2021, and place Nepal on the global art map,” Sangeeta Thapa of the Siddhartha Art Foundation.

Photo Kathmandu 

Nepal’s best known photography festival was supposed to happen in November, but will stretch out its 4th edition right through 2021 as opposed to previous month-long events. The shows and talks will mostly be virtual, and some of them have already begun. There will be physical exhibitions in 2021 if the pandemic tapers off.

Film Festivals 

Nepal International Film Festival (NIFF) barely managed to be held February just as the pandemic was spreading. But other events such as the Pame Film Festival, the National Human Rights International Film Festival (NHRIFF), and KIMFF went virtual during the tail end of 2020, which meant that a large number of viewers including the Nepali diaspora had access to participating Nepali films.

Pokhara Film Society, however, opted to wait out the pandemic and postponed it from March, well before the Covid lockdown began. Festival Director Santosh Sharma Sapkota says, “We are hoping to have the 5th edition physically in 2021 with virtual options for viewers who prefer it.”

Nepali athletes train for the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: NEPAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE

Tokyo Olympics

Nepali athletes were just gearing up for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics when it was  rescheduled for 23 July-8 August 2021. Fifteen Nepali athletes are training for archery, judo, tae kwon do, karate, shooting, weightlifting, swimming, and athletics. Of them, ten are in Kathmandu and three are in Pokhara, while two swimmers have been training in London.

Chaturananda Raj Vaidhya of the Nepal Olympics Committee (NOC) told Nepali Times  the committee has constantly been in touch with the athletes virtually to ensure that their training and nutrition needs were being met.  Although training was scaled-back during the lockdown, athletes are now back to full-fledged schedules.

2020 saw many sports institutions and teams across the world adopt bio-bubbles to restrict players’ exposure to the coronavirus.  Nepali athletes are also in closed training camps. “The International Olympics Committee has informed us that all participating Olympians will be vaccinated for free in the event that any coronavirus vaccine is approved,” Vaidhya explains. "In the meantime, we are following all safety protocols.”