Dane of the Year: Who’s Ariel and who’s Ursula?

Ben Hamilton
February 4th, 2023

This article is more than 1 year old.

Only one politician makes our ten … and it’s probably no surprise that he’s not in the top half!

Morten Meldal contributed to a banner year for Danish science (photo: KU.dk)

Given that 2022 gave us a general election, surely our ‘Dane of the Year’ should be a politician.

PM Mette Frederiksen, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Alex Vanopslagh and Inge Støjberg – the respective leaders of Socialdemokratiet, Moderaterne, Liberal Alliance and Denmarksdemokraterne – could have all been worthy inclusions on the back of their performance.

But the length of time it took to form a new government has soured the milk somehow, forcing politicians into more u-turns than the Minis in ‘The Italian Job’. 

Their tendency was to disappoint rather than lead by example to the extent that nobody really knows where they stand anymore.

Not the absolute worst 
Corona, though, has gone well, with Denmark a leading example of how to not let the virus dictate how we should live. Better to be here than a country still drowning in facemasks and unnecessary precautions.

It was also good to see Denmark leading the way with its Loss and Damage pledge to compensate the poor countries most affected by climate change. It underlined its status as a green trailblazer, even though the issue was somewhat sidelined in the election, and definitely influenced other countries at COP27.

And its reaction to the War in Ukraine has also been heartening. From the public raising untold aid to the generous state contributions and reception of the refugees, the country can feel justly proud. Plans are advanced for Kyiv and Copenhagen to become friendship cities – proof the support has been well received.

So all in all, Denmark did not have a complete stinker in 2022, despite experiencing its highest rate of inflation since 1982. More of the same is expected over the first half of 2023, and a worldwide recession looks almost certain, but in the immortal words of D:Ream: Things can only get better!

Top Five

5 Queen Margrethe II

(photo: Hasse Ferrold)

Nobody needs a reminder of what the Queen did in 2022, and how annoyed her ever-so-annoying son is. But it has to be said: she talks a lot of sense and knows how to speak from the heart. Her contribution to HRH-cutting will not only be felt here, but soon in many countries and her name will be spoken in reverence. Watch this space!

4 Esbjerg Municipality

November brought the news that Esbjerg Municipality’s four-day working week experiment has been a great success. Since 2021, 520 of its employees have been working four ten-hour days a week and close to 90 percent are said to be extremely happy. Three-day weekends could become a reality for many of us!

3 Ukrainians in Denmark

Entering December, it was confirmed that more than half of the Ukrainian refugees eligible to work in Denmark are employed. Roughly 28,000 were granted residence permits under a special law quickly passed by Parliament in the spring. And of the 54 percent willing to take up employment, 6,159 have found jobs – a sterling effort!

2 Rasmus Kofoed

(photo: Facebook/Geranium)

When Rasmus won gold in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or in 2011, few thought he would ever top it, but in July confirmation came that his restaurant Geranium had been named World’s Best Restaurant. Years of playing second fiddle to Noma, despite being considered the best restaurant in Denmark by Michelin for most of the decade, were forgotten as Kofoed’s team basked in the glory. Nobody can say Danish cuisine starts and ends with Noma anymore.

1 Morten Meldal

Most of us haven’t got a clue what Morten Meldal did – something to do with click chemistry – but then again, if it wasn’t something seriously complicated, it’s unlikely he would have won Denmark’s first Nobel Prize this century – and just the 14th in history. The University of Copenhagen professor won the prize with two overseas colleagues, but from the reaction of fellow researchers, and the public at large, it was clear that he’s sharing the prize with the whole country. Because that’s the Danish way. 

Bottom Five

5 Michael Bojesen

The past finally caught up with Michael Bojesen, the Danish director of Malmö Opera since 2017, who was fired in light of allegations of inappropriate behaviour dating back several decades. The final straw was a comment about a female opera singer’s breasts.

4 Xing Er

The male panda at Copenhagen Zoo is surely running out of time! Xing Er and Mao Sun have a 40-hour window every year, and this April will be the fourth time the pair have tried. Xing Er apparently prefers eating bamboo to doing the business! 

3 Peter Schmeichel

(photo: Christian Wenande)

The former national keeper, who will be loved eternally by fans for his heroics at Euro 1992, doesn’t really care what the minority think – about anything he does. For the 2022 World Cup, Schmeichel took a lucrative job working for a Qatari TV channel, prompting one pundit to speculate: “We probably just have to face the fact that Peter Schmeichel doesn’t care what the Danes think of him. Legacy isn’t that important to him.”

2 Pyrus

The number of julekalender TV shows featuring the nisse Pyrus is shrinking by the minute. TV2 has promised to never broadcast ‘Alletiders Juleman’ again because it contains a scene in which children are black-faced to play ‘negerbollaer’ (black buns), the chocolate-covered cream offering better known as flødeboller. Jokes about Chinese people have also been condemned.

1 Søren Pape Poulsen

(photo: Facebook/Søren Pape Poulsen)

Somehow he’s managed to remain Konservative leader despite a disastrous general election. Heading into the autumn it had looked so rosy, but then the tabloids started digging into allegations revolving around his husband, a Dominican Republic national, who he promptly divorced. DR political correspondent Christine Cordsen warned readers it would be unwise to draw a link between the recent events and the divorce, saying she did not think the affair would hinder Pape’s bid to become PM. She was wrong.


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