Hello. It looks like you�re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best Tortoise experience possible, please make sure any blockers are switched off and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help, let us know at memberhelp@tortoisemedia.com

2021 by the numbers

2021 by the numbers

This year was one filled with plenty of numbers – some big, some small. Each tell a different story. Simon Barnes has raked through them all and, with a little help from Team Tortoise, presents the most interesting ones here


Spectators at the Olympic Games, held in Tokyo this year.


Or if you prefer, nul. Points scored in the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest by the British entry, James Newman’s Embers, the first time this had happened since the new points system was adopted in 2016.


Admission money in pounds for the Rolling Stones’ Hyde Park concert of 1969; Charlie Watts, who died this year aged 80, played the drums.


Vault performed by the American gymnast Simone Biles at the Olympic Games, who entered the Olympic Games favourite to win five golds. After this she dropped out to protect her physical and mental health, eventually winning a bronze on the beam. 


Target rise in degrees Celsius for global post-industrial temperatures, widely criticised as being too much. The possibility of keeping the rise down to this figure was described by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as “on life-support”.


Metres of social distancing not adhered to by Matt Hancock and his aide Gina Coladangelo.


2020 was the second warmest year in British records. It was also the fifth wettest and the eighth sunniest.


Short-range ballistic missiles tested by North Korea; both landed just outside Japanese territorial waters.


Times that Donald Trump had been impeached – more than any other US president – after his second impeachment in January.


Gold medals awarded for men’s Olympic high jump: joint-winners were Mutaz Esssa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy.


Grand-slam tennis titles won by the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, feared for since she claimed to have been sexually assaulted by China’s former vice premier Zhang Gaoli.


Predicted rise of global temperature from pre-industrial levels under current practice.


Failed penalties by England players in the shootout at the final of the European Football Championship (one miss, two saved).


Percentage rise in Consumer Price Index over 12 months to August 2021, the largest ever such increase, in part due to the the Eat Out to Help Out scheme in August 2020. 


Percentage of people playing professional cricket in England who are of South Asian extraction. 


Minimum price in US dollars for a single dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine; the maximum is 8.1.


China became the fourth country to land a spacecraft on Mars with the Zhurong rover.


Successful coups: Myanmar, Mali, Guinea, Sudan.


Year sentence for Zhang Zhan, citizen journalist reporting on the original Covid outbreak in Wuhan. She was found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. 


People killed in the United States Capitol riot. 


Fifth Indiana Jones film now in production


Hours Sweden’s first woman prime minister Magdalena Anderssson was in power before resigning. She was back five days later.


Olympic medals won by the cyclist Jason Kenny in the course of his career, seven golds and two silvers, making him Britain’s most decorated Olympian. 


Murals created by Banksy in East Anglia during his Great British Spraycation; eight can still be viewed.


Football clubs (including six from England) attempting to establish the European Super League. Three days later they all backed out.


Years and 20 days: age of Sky Brown, Britain’s youngest ever Olympic medal-winner.


Times greater chance of death from Covid for the unvaccinated; figures from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Ministers sacked by Boris Johnson.


Age at which Virginia Giuffre claims that Prince Andrew had sex with her, a claim denied by the prince. 


Mixed gender events at the Olympic Games.


Amount in pounds of the increase to Universal Credit that was withdrawn 18 months after its introduction.


Years of US operations in Afghanistan before pull-out this year. 


Successive sets won by the British tennis player Emma Raducanu to win the US Open singles titles, three qualifying matches and seven matches in the competition proper. Since then, she’s won five sets in the course of five matches (of which she won two).


Percentage of people playing non-professional cricket in England who are of South Asian extraction.


Maximum price in US dollars for a single dose of the Moderna vaccine; minimum is 25.


Percentage of globally produced food that is wasted; i.e. used to feed neither humans nor their domestic animals.


Age in years of Wisdom, a female Laysan albatross, making her the oldest known living wild bird.


Millimetres of rain fell on West London on 12 July; 120 residents of Kensington and Chelsea were evacuated and eight tube-lines suspended. There were 1,000 calls to the London Fire Brigade. Thirteen days later a similar amount of rain forced two hospitals to close.


Minutes Kamala Harris was acting president of the United States, while Joe Biden was having a colonoscopy. 


MPs with second jobs.


Days the Ever Given container ship spent in the Suez Canal; blocking it for six of them. 


Days between the USA leaving the Paris Agreement on climate and re-joining. 


Seconds before Luke Shaw of England scored in the final of the European Football Championship; England lost on penalties.


Private jets taking political leaders to Cop 26.


Known incidents of persecution of birds of prey in UK in 2020, revealed in an RSPB report this year; the highest figure in 30 years; 62 per cent on land managed for gamebirds. 


Hate messages reported to UK Police and regarded as criminal, sent to Black British footballers after the defeat on penalties in the final of the European Football Championship.


Years that Debenhams existed as a physical shop; they still have a presence online.


Miles between Port of Tyne, where Boris Johnson addressed the CBI, and Peppa Pig World in Hampshire.


Admission price in pounds for “ultimate terrace” status at Adele’s planned Hyde Park concert for next summer; ground admission is £90.45.


Official date of the Olympic Games and the European Football Championship, both which took place in 2021. Something to do with branding.


People killed building football stadiums in Qatar, the Guardian estimates.


Number of votes that Donald Trump told Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to “find”. 


Troops guarding Washington, DC during Joe Biden’s inauguration as president. 


Women who reported menstrual changes after Covid vaccine; not on the official list of possible side-effects.


Complaints about Piers Morgan’s remarks about the Duchess of Sussex on Good Morning Britain, a record since Ofcom was set up; Ofcom rejected the complaints.


Hours in the course of five years during which Southern Water discharged raw sewage into the sea and rivers; they were given a record fine of £90 million.


Population of Bermuda, the smallest country to win an Olympic gold medal after Flora Duffy won the women’s triathlon in Tokyo.


Annual deaths from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa for children under five: the pilot programme for the newly-developed (over 30 years) vaccine is expected to reduce this figure considerably.


Viewers who decided against watching the European Championship  Final between England and Italy and went for Coastal Railways With Julie Walters instead. 


Global deaths from Covid.


Instagram followers gained in three weeks by HoYeon Jung, one of the stars of Squid Game.


Estimated amount in US dollars paid separately by Colonial Pipeline (petrol) and JBS (meat) to stop ransomware attacks.


Winning bid in US dollars to join Jeff Bezos on the New Shepherd spacecraft.


British audience for the final of the European Football Championship.


Annual growth of human population.


Amount in US dollars paid for at Sotheby’s New York for the Botticelli painting Young Man Holding a Roundel.


Expected insurance losses in pounds from London flooding in July.


Fewer sparrows in Europe since 1980.


Viewing hours for Squid Game (on Netflix) in the first four weeks.


Approximate distance from sun in miles of the planetoid 2018 AG37, nicknamed Farfarout, as confirmed this year. It takes 1,000 years to orbit the sun and is 132 times further away from the sun that the Earth.


Estimated wealth in US dollars of Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla, as he overtook Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, to become the world’s richest man.

Thanks to: 

Gurjunder Dhaliwa, Ciara O’Malley, Andrew Butler, Xavier Greenwood and Ellen Halliday

Also to contributors who didn’t make the cut:

Chloe Beresford, Swathy Sanjay, Matthew d’Ancona and Barney Macintyre