Oban was born in 2002. What else was going on that year?

Oban was founded in 2002. To mark our 20th birthday, we have a series of exciting activities planned for this spring and summer – and to kick things off, we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane to find out what else was happening in the year we started. Here’s what we remembered.


Politics in 2002

In 2002, the world was still reeling from the aftermath of 9/11. International travel had taken a big hit, and international visitor numbers would take a full six years to recover from their pre-9/11 peak.

In January, President George Bush delivered his first State of the Union address, in which he used the now-infamous phrase ‘an axis of evil’ to refer to North Korea, Iraq and Iran. Later in the year, he called for regime change in Iraq, foreshadowing the subsequent Iraq War (2003-2011).

In Europe, Euro coins and banknotes were introduced throughout the Eurozone from 1st January, with the currency becoming sole legal tender from 1st March (although it had been used for accounting and electronic payments since 1999). The EU agreed to admit ten new member states – Czechia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta and Poland – countries which would formally join in 2004.

In what would be the largest expansion in its history, NATO invited seven Eastern and Central European countries to join – Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia. They became full members in 2004.

The civil war in Sierra Leone – which started in 1991 and was one of the bloodiest in African history – came to a conclusion with the defeat of the Revolutionary United Front by government forces.

In the Hague, Slobodan Milošević, former president of Serbia, went on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal on charges of war crimes in Bosnia, Kosovo and Croatia.

, President George Bush delivered his first State of the Union address


Digital in 2002

In 2002, a milestone was reached when over 50% of the UK population – more than 30 million people – had internet access at home. (Today, the figure is over 97%.)

The total amount of digitised information in the world exceeded the volume of traditional analogue information for the first time – leading many to consider 2002 the start of the digital information age.

Napster, the peer-to-peer file sharing service, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US following a series of legal actions.

And there were notable product launches, including:

  • Apple released its second-generation iPod, which held 20GB of storage space.
  • The Sanyo SCP-5300 became the first mobile phone with a built-in camera to be released in the US.
  • Google released its first hardware device, called the Google Search Appliance (discontinued in 2019). It also introduced Froogle, which allowed users to search for items to buy – a service it later renamed Google Shopping.
  • LinkedIn was founded (though the site would properly launch the following year, in 2003).
  • The social networking site Friendster launched, which would later be overtaken by Facebook (and others).
  • Microsoft launched Xbox Live, its online multiplayer gaming service. At the time, critics were sceptical, noting how uncommon broadband connections were.
Apple's iPod (2nd generation)

Apple’s iPod (2nd generation)


Sport in 2002

The FIFA World Cup was held in South Korea and Japan, making it the first World Cup to be hosted by more than one nation. Brazil won the final by defeating Germany 2-0 and becoming the first team to win all their matches and five World Cups.

The Winter Olympics were held in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the Commonwealth Games took place in Manchester.

Rio Ferdinand became the most expensive player in English football when he completed a £29.1 million transfer from Leeds United to Manchester United.

2002 FIFA World Cup - Seoul Plaza, South Korea

2002 FIFA World Cup – Seoul Plaza, South Korea


Business in 2002

Car sales in the UK reached a record level, exceeding 2.5 million cars sold for the first time. The best-selling car in the UK that year was the Ford Focus (for the fourth year in a row).

In the US, chairman of bankrupt energy trader Enron, Ken Lay, resigned, as the company faced federal investigation for misrepresenting earnings and hiding debt. Enron’s CFO, Andy Fastow, was indicted on 78 charges of wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. To this day, Enron remains one of the biggest accounting frauds in history.

Arthur Andersen, a Big Five accounting firm founded in 1913, was badly damaged by its role as Enron’s longstanding auditors. After a series of legal troubles, its reputation never recovered, and it subsequently split and rebranded into different entities.

WorldCom, a telecoms company, filed what was the largest bankruptcy in US history, after a $9 billion accounting fraud came to light.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 devastated the airline business, with US Airways and United Airlines amongst big names who filed for bankruptcy that year.

Bill Gates topped the world’s rich list. Today, that position is held by Elon Musk (Gates has slipped to 4th place – behind Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bernard Arnault).

The Ford Focus was the top selling car in 2002

The Ford Focus was the top selling car in 2002


Royalty and celebrity in 2002

The Queen celebrated her Golden Jubilee. She also lost her mother and sister, as both the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret died that year, aged 101 and 71 respectively.

Michael Jackson caused international controversy after he dangled his son – named Prince Michael but known as Blanket – over the balcony of his hotel room in Berlin.

Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake – who had met in 1992 on the set of the Mickey Mouse Club and who had been dating since 1999 – announced their split.

The Miss World beauty competition was due to be held in Nigeria, because 2001’s winner – Agbani Darego – was Nigerian. However, in the run-up to the contest, religiously-motivated riots took place in Kaduna, partly objecting to the contest clashing with Ramadan, and partly because conservative Muslims and Christians considered the contest ‘unchaste’. Riots protesting the event became violent – claiming the lives of 250 people – so the contest was relocated to London instead.


Films in 2002

At the 74th Academy Awards, Halle Berry became the first black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress (for her role in Monster’s Ball).

In the English-speaking world, the biggest films of the year included Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Spider Man, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Gangs of New York, Chicago, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and The Hours.


Music in 2002

One of the biggest selling albums of the year was Eminem’s The Eminem Show, which sold 7.6 million copies. The UK’s biggest selling single of the year was Will Young’s Anything is Possible/Evergreen. Other big selling singles included Ashanti’s Foolish, Nelly’s Dilemma and Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles.

In the UK, ITV’s Popstars: The Rivals reality show led to the girl band Girls Aloud being formed. (The boy band from the series, One True Voice, quickly flopped.) In the US, Kelly Clarkson won the first series of American Idol. She would go on to sell 25 million albums and 45 million singles worldwide.

Avril Lavigne released her debut album, Let Go, and was dubbed the anti-Britney. Christina Aguilera entered her Stripped era, releasing her single Dirrty, in which she promised to “sweat until my clothes come off”.

In the US, U2 performed during the Super Bowl half-time show and paid tribute to victims of 9/11. In the UK, Fat Boy Slim gave a free concert on Brighton beach, which drew much-larger-than-expected crowds of over 250,000 people – doubling Brighton’s population for the day and overwhelming the city’s infrastructure.


TV in 2002

It was a big year for reality TV. As well as Popstars: The Rivals and American Idol mentioned above, there was also:

The Osbournes, a reality show following the lives of heavy metal singer Ozzy Osbourne, his wife and manager Sharon, and their children Jack and Kelly, which debuted on MTV in 2002. At the time, it was the most viewed series on MTV ever. A memorable scene in Season 1 involved Sharon Osbourne throwing a baked ham into her neighbour’s garden as part of a noise dispute.

The Anna Nicole Show also debuted that year, focusing on former model and Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith. As well as her modelling, Anna was famous for marrying a Texan oil billionaire 62 years her senior, who she had met whilst performing in a Houston strip club. Her reality show was one of the first of its kind, and before audiences realised the extent to which they were scripted or semi-scripted. A popular character was her interior designer, the flamboyant Bobby Trendy, with whom she often clashed and whose repeated catchphrase was ‘live luxuriously’. Sadly, Anna died of a drugs overdose in 2007 at the age of 40.

In the UK, the long-running series I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here debuted on ITV. Channel 4’s Big Brother saw its first female winner (Kate Lawler).


Other news and events in 2002

NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey space probe began to map the surface of Mars using its thermal emission imaging system.

The SARS epidemic began in the Guangdong province of mainland China. SARS stood for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. About 774 people died from the disease between 2002 and 2004.

The volcano Mount Nyiragongo erupted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, displacing an estimated 400,000 people.

Myra Hindley, the Moors murderer, died of a heart attack at the age of 60. She was in the 37th year of a life sentence. Media sources at the time reported that the Home Office would soon be stripped of its power to set minimum terms for life sentence prisoners, and as a result, Hindley had been widely expected to gain parole in the near future.

And in China, the Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market opened. Nearly two decades later, it would be the widely-believed location for the first outbreak of Covid-19.

Artist's concept of 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft.

Artist’s concept of 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft (via NASA)

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Oban has been delivering international growth for numerous businesses in the twenty years since 2002. If you want to accelerate your global expansion through digital marketing, we can help. Contact us today to find out how.

Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.

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