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The Year That Was: 2002

Twenty years ago, let’s take a quick spin around the top stories!

World News

The year began with the transition of the European Union (EU) to the Euro.

This meant that all nations within the Eurozone (an economic group of 19 countries within the EU) ceased using their national currencies and transitioned to the Euro. This transition took place until the 28 February 2002.

Later in the year, on 10 September, Switzerland would finally join the United Nations (UN) after years of its neutral status standing in the way of the country reject a place in the international organisation.

Shortly after this on 27 September East Timor was admitted to the UN as the 191st member state. Earlier in the year on 20 May 2002, East Timor had been recognised as an independent nation by the United Nations. This marked the official end of Indonesian occupation that had been in place for the last 27 years.

East Timor Flag

When Portugal withdrew from the region in 1974, ending almost 200 years of colonial rule, it left unrest behind with civil war breaking out in East Timor. Capitalising on this Indonesia had invaded which led to an era of instability, brutality, and violence. Following international support, in 1999 a referendum had been held which began the path to East Timor’s independence.

When East Timor was admitted into the UN it also changed its name to Timor-Leste using the traditional Portuguese language.

The Mt. Nyiragongo Volcano

On 17 January 2002, Mt. Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Central Africa) erupted sending lava up to 2,800m into the sky and heading straight for the city of Goma(pictured here).

Around 400,000 people had to be evacuated across the border into Rwanda to escape the lava flow. Sadly, 245 people were killed as a direct result of the eruption while 120,000 people were left homeless.

As soon as this initial eruption stopped a number of earthquakes began and lasted for around three months, resulting in further damage. Six months later the volcano once again erupted.

The destruction of Mt. Nyiragongo, 2002 (Source: National Geographic)

This wasn’t the first time the volcano had erupted with such ferocity. On 10 January 1977 the crater walls of a lava lake on the volcano collapsed and the lava flooded into the surrounding areas in less than an hour. At the time this was the fastest lava flow on record and over 600 people were killed.

Last year on 22 May 2021, the volcano rumbled to life again and erupted. At least 32 people were killed in the scramble to evacuate the city. One major ongoing issue from the volcano is a rise in carbon dioxide omissions which have been so lethal as to kill young children. The volcano is currently classed as “erupting”.

Though this is one of the most active volcanoes in the world with one of the highest neighbouring populations there is very limited interest in the site. This is largely due to the instability of the region which has seen on going civil wars and a very low socio-economical population.

War and Terror

When it comes to war, the civil war in Sierra Leone ended with the defeat of the Revolutionary United Front by Government forces on 18 January. In Angola the civil war also came to an end with the death of the guerrilla leader by Government forces on 4 April.

Aftermath of the Bali bombings, 2002 (Source: ABC News)

After the September 11 attacks that dominated world news the previous year it was what became known as the “Bali Bombings” of 2002 that gripped the world headlines. On 12 October in Kuta, Indonesia multiple bombs were detonated across two nightclubs killing 202 people and injuring over 300. This was the worst known terrorist attack in Indonesian history.

Other Disasters

Several air and sea disasters occurred throughout the year and of most note are:

  • 22 March 2002: MV Le Joola ferry owned by the Senegalese Government capsized while travelling further out to sea than it was licensed to during a violent storm. At the time the craft was carrying four times the licences amount. Licenced to carry just 536 it is estimated that there were over 2,000 on board. At least 1,863 people died, and it is thought that many died due to the long wait for rescue or were still trapped inside when the vessel finally sank. The incident occurred very shortly after leaving port at 11pm however the boat didn’t sink at 3pm the next day. Of the approximately 600 women on board just one survived, Mariama Diouf and she was pregnant at the time. She was one of just 64 survivors. ]

  • 25 May 2002: China Airlines Flight 611 between Taiwan and Hong Kong. All 225 people on board lost their lives when the aircraft broke up as a result of metal fatigue that was caused by incorrect maintenance.

Sporting News

On 16 February 2002, Stephen Bradbury won Australia’s first ever winter Olympic gold medal. This took place at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in Utah, USA.

The games were attended by 2,399 athletes representing 78 countries with Norway finishing at the top of the table with the most gold medals however both Germany and the USA won more medals overall.

These games are well remembered in Australia as not only was our first winter gold medal won but it was the nation’s most successful to date with a second gold won days later. The first gold was taken home by short-track speed skater Steven Bradbury (pictured above) in the men’s 1,000m making him the first to win a gold medal not just for Australia but for any country in the southern hemisphere! Eight years earlier he was a member of the relay team that won Australia’s first ever winter Olympic medal (bronze in the men’s 5000m relay at the 1994 Games). Bradbury took home the gold in a mammoth come from behind victory on the 16 February, and if you haven’t seen this clip before then you really need to as it is something for sure! The manner in which he won was considered the Aussie way of the lil battler and “doing a Bradbury” is now part of the local vernacular.

Two days later on 18 February, Alisa Camplin won gold in the women’s aerials freestyle skiing event (pictured above) becoming the first Australian female to win not just a gold medal but a medal of any colour at the Olympics. She also became the first female from a southern hemisphere nation to win gold. At the next games in 2006 she followed up with a Bronze and was Australia’s flag bearer for the opening ceremony.

In other sporting news the 2002 FIFA Soccer World Cup was held in Japan and South Korea in June with Brazil claiming the ultimate victory in the final played against Germany. When you google "iconic image of 2002" the image below is what comes up which just goes to show the global impact of the game.

Brazil win the 2002 Soccer World Cup (Source: Al Jazeera)


In a sad year for Royal watches Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister, died aged 71 on 9 February while just over a month later on 30 March, aged 101, the Queen Mother (Queen Elizabeth’s Mother) died.

Across the ocean in the USA, Kermit the Frog made headlines when he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on 14 November.

At the movies the top grossing film of the year was The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers closely followed by Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Spider-Man, all three films taking home over $800 million from the box office. This was the first time in history that three films made that much in one year. At the Oscars held in March 2002 A Beautiful Mind dominated the awards.

In music, just nine songs made it to the top of the Billboard charts (the second lowest number in the history of the charts). These nine songs were (in year ending chart order):

  1. "How Your Remind Me" by Nickelback (spent just four weeks at the top of the charts but topped the year end chart as the number one song of the year).

  2. "Foolish" by Ashanti (10 weeks at #1)

  3. "Hot in Here" by Nelly (7 weeks at #1)

  4. "Dilemma" by Nelly feat. Kelly Rowland (7 Weeks at #1)

  5. "U Got it Bad" by Usher (5 Weeks at #1)

  6. "Always on Time" by Ja Rule feat. Ashanti (2 weeks at #1, finished the year outside the top 10 of the year).

  7. "Ain't It Funny (Murder Remix)" by Jennifer Lopez feat. Ja Rule (6 weeks at #1, finished the year outside the top 10 of the year).

  8. "A Moment Like This" by Kelly Clarkson (2 Weeks at #1, finished on the top 100 chart down in #39). - This song was released upon Clarkson's win of the first ever American Idol season. (Pictured below)

  9. "Lose Yourself" by Eminem (8 Weeks at #1 in 2002 and finished outside the top 50 for the year but would go on to continue topping the charts in 2003).

In the Top 100 Billboard chart for the year five songs made the top 10 without hitting number one at all throughout the year. These were:

  • "Wherever you will go" by the Calling at #5

  • "A Thousand Miles" by Vanessa Carlton at #6

  • "In the End" by Linkin Park at #7

  • "What's Luv?" Fat Joe feat. Ashanti at #8

  • "Blurry" by Puddle of Mudd at #10

Here in Australia the music charts featured a bit more variety. The top song of the year was "Without Me" by Eminem followed by Shakira's "Whenever, Wherever". While many of the songs from the Billboard charts made to the Aussie airwaves the only two top songs to also appear in the Aussie top 20 of the year were "Dilemma" and "Hot in Here".

It was a year of premieres for some well-loved Aussie tv shows as well. These included Australian Survivor and Kath and Kim.

Over the Disney studios the major release for the year was Lilo and Stitch. The film would go on to become a cult classic and spurn several spin offs and a giant world of merchandise. This is one of my favourite films!


Further Reading:

*Where more information is provided see individual blogs or posts for further reading


  • Australia Through Time, 2004 Edition (Sydney: Random House, 2004)

  • The Visual History of the Modern World (Sydney: Funtastic, 2005)

  • Dateline: People, Places and Events (Sydney: Murdoch Books, 2006)

General Online:

  • Encyclopaedia Britannica; <>

  • National Geographic Education; <>

  • History Channel (A & E); <>

  • BBC World News; <>

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