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1986 in history

1986 in history

Here are some light-hearted facts about 1986, designed to serve as a prep sheet for a radio feature on 1986.

I created this page because when I needed some notes to create a few talking points about 1986 in Ireland I couldn't find any suitable sources, so I thought I'd share what I did find. It applies to 1986 in Britain too.

You can also look at years other than 1986:

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1986

  • The first PC virus, Brain, started to spread in this year.

  • The United Kingdom and France announce plans to construct the Channel Tunnel.

  • There was a royal wedding at Westminster Abbey when Sarah Ferguson married Prince Andrew.

  • The FIFA World Cup was held in Mexico this year. The crowd took part in a wave which the English-speaking world outside America had never seen before, so it became known as the Mexican Wave.

    Maradona scored his controversial "hand of God" goal against England. He won the Golden Ball trophy, which then went missing.

  • GCSE examinations replaced GCE O-Level and CSE courses in the UK.

  • Mike Tyson wins his first ever boxing title.

  • Richard Branson on the 72 ft powerboat Virgin Challenger II breaks the world record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic, but he was denied the Blue Riband award.

  • Mad Cow Disease (BSE) is discovered in this year, and becomes a major talking point.

  • A record of more than 1.8 million new cars were sold in Britain. The Ford Escort was the most popular new car.

  • Corporal punishment was banned in state schools in Britain. It wasn't banned in private schools until 1998 (2003 in Northern Ireland).

  • In one of their most famous front pages headlines, The Sun newspaper alleged that comedian Freddie Starr ate a live hamster.

  • Martina Navratilova became the first tennis player to win $10 million, after beating Helena Sukova at the final of the US Women's Indoor Tennis.

1986 Launches

  • Britain's first colour daily newspaper, Today, launched.

  • The stage musical, 'Phantom of the Opera' debuted in London's West End. It became the longest-running Broadway play ever.

  • Fuji introduced the disposable camera.

  • The activity Laser Tag was invented.

  • A branch of McDonald's in Manchester (Fallowfield) became the UK's first drive thru restaurant.

  • The first Pret a Manger opened in London.

  • Unleaded petrol went on sale, following years of campaigning from environmentalists. At the time only a third of vehicles could run on unleaded.

  • The M25, known as the London Orbital Motorway, was completed and opened by Margaret Thatcher. The road was massively scaled down from its original planned capacity and suffered from congestion within a few years.

  • Ryanair opened for business. A flight from Dublin to London Luton cost £99 - much cheaper than the £200-odd the flag-holding competitors were charging.

1986 in Film

  • Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise and some very cool Ray-Bans, was the biggest film of the year.

  • Other big films include Crocodile Dundee, Aliens, The Karate Kid Part II and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

  • Short Circuit and Platoons were also released.

1986 in TV

  • Big TV shows of the year (not premiers): Just Good Friends, Only Fools and Horses, Blind Date, Last of the Summer Wine, Duty Free, Family Ties and Murder She Wrote.

  • Catchphrase with Roy Walker and Mr Chips launched on ITV.

  • Casualty and Neighbours aired in the UK for the first time too, and Strike It Lucky and Dempsey's Den also aired for the first time.

  • The Oprah Winfrey show made its first debut on national television.

  • Takeshi's Castle began on Japenese TV. It became a huge hit in Europe.

  • In EastEnders, Den told Angie he wants a divorce.

  • People Do The Funniest Things with Jeremy Beadle began.

  • BBC TV stopped taking an afternoon break. It would now broadcast all day, but still take a break overnight. Meanwhile Yorkshire Television was the first British channel to be on air 24 hours a day - at night it would switch to European music channel Music Box.

  • More than 30 million British viewers tuned in to the EastEnders Christmas Day episode, where Den Watts served the divorce papers on his wife Angie.

  • The first Comic Relief telethon was held, with actor Rowan Atkinson at the helm.

1986 in Ireland

  • Hurricane Charley reached Ireland in August. The East and Southeast were the worst hit.

  • Two giant pandas, Ming Ming and Ping Ping, arrived at Dublin Zoo.

  • Dublin Airport was open for the first time on a Christmas Day.

  • Knock Airport in Co. Mayo was officially opened.

  • The first attempt at a smoking ban was made. It didn't work partly due to resistance from the tobacco industry, but it did result in large new warnings on packets and adverts.


While these facts about 1986 have been checked against third-party sources (and have been used on air before!), they are provided in good faith to inspire your research and no guarantee is made about their accuracy or their uniqueness. You can use the facts however you wish: most people just take a couple of points they remember and talk around then.

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© 2024 Johnathan Randall

Johnathan Randall
Legally bland

Any similarities with real-life events or wealthy international firms is probably coincidental. No products endorsed. I'm powered by Monster Munch.

© 2024 Johnathan Randall.