1997 events are not to be forgotten. From a cult’s mass suicide, a Princess losing her life, and a lone person making it across Antarctica, this timeline highlights the important events that happened in what could arguably be described as one of the most tumultuous years in history for many reasons.

Old newspapers from 1997 a unique insight into how these events were reported at the time. 

Jump to:

Heaven’s Gate Mass Suicide

Diana, Princess of Wales, Dies In a Car Crash

1997 Timeline

January

January 1: The Republic of Zaira joins the World Trade Organisations, as Zaire. It is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

January 3: China announces that it will spend $27.7 billion on the fight against erosion and pollution in the Yangtze and Yellow river valleys.

January 7: Newt Gingrich is re-elected as the United States’ Speaker of the House of Representatives.

January 9: Frank Sinatra suffers a heart attack.

January 10: Tony Bullimore is rescued after his boat capsized in the Southern Ocean, after being missing for 5 days. 

January 10: Comet 1997 A1 is discovered – the first of 1997.

January 10: Arnoldo Aleman is sworn in as the President of Nicaragua.

January 12: Golfer, Tiger Woods, wins the Mercedes Championships.

January 15: Dennis Rodman, a Chicago Bulls basketball player, kicks cameraman Eugene Amos in the groin during a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He has to pay $200,000 to Amos and is suspended for 11 games without pay.

January 15: Diana, Princess of Wales, calls for an international ban on landmines, which angers ministers in the UK.

January 18: Boerge Ousland, from Norway, becomes the first person to cross Antarctica alone and unaided.

January 21: More than 80 child abusers are named in an inquiry in North Wales.

January 24: The Swiss government, along with several banks and businesses, agree to create a fun for a memorial for the victims of the Holocaust.

January 26: In the Australian Open, Pete Sampras wins the Men’s Title, and Martina Hingis wins the Women’s Title. Martina becomes the first Swiss player ever to win a Gram Slam singles title.

January 26: The Green Bay Packers beat the New England Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI.

 

February

February 4: The United States’ Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, announces her grandparents were Jewish.

February 4: Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian President, recognises the opposition victories in the November 1996 elections. At first, the President contested the results.

February 5: O.J. Simpson is found liable in the deaths of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman in a civil court action.

February 5: Brook Lee, from Hawaii, is crowned the 46th Miss USA. She goes on to win Miss Universe in the same year.

February 5: In Japan, the Ministry of Finance announces plans to cut crude oil and most petroleum products import tariffs.

February 6: In England, Diana Blood wins the right to use her dead husband’s sperm.

February 12: Fred Goldman, Ron Goldman’s father, says that he’ll settle for a signed murder confession instead of $20.5 million judgement.

February 13: The new Chief Economist of the World Bank is named as Joseph Stiglitz.

February 13: Michael Jackson Jr, the first son of Michael Jackson, is born in Beverly Hills, California.

February 22: Jennifer Lopez, aged 27, weds Ojani Noa in the grounds of a friend’s home in Miami.

February 23: 65 million people watch Schindler’s List uncensored, shown on NBC TV.

February 24: South Africa announces that it is making the largest Blimp in modern history.

February 28: 45 people are killed in an earthquake in Pakistan.

February 28: Earl Pitts, an FBI agent, admits and pleads guilty to selling secrets to Russia.

February 28: In the US, people who buy cigarettes have to prove that they are over 18.

1995 Timeline

O.J. Simpson, pictured in 1990. (Image source: Wikimedia)

March

March 2: Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, a Saudi billionaire, acquires 5% of Apple.

March 3: The Sky Tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere, opens in Auckland, New Zealand, after over two years of construction.

March 3: Camila Cabello, singer, is born in Cojimar, Cuba.

March 4: The Brazilian Senate allows women to wear trousers.

March 4: Bill Clinton, the 42nd US President, bans federally funded human cloning research.

March 6: Tete de Femme, a painting by Picasso, is stolen from a gallery in London. It’s recovered a week later.

March 7: In Japan, 5 sue the Prime Minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto, because his smoking habits violated the country’s constitution: guaranteeing a wholesome life.

March 10: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, starring Sarah Michelle Geller, premieres on WB Television Network.

March 11: Paul McCartney, of the Beatles, is knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. He is from hereon known as Sir Paul McCartney.

March 13: The Phoenix Lights are seen at night over Phoenix, Arizona by hundreds of people and millions on television. It has now become a highly debated controversy.

March 14: Bill Clinton trips, injuring his knee. It would later require surgery.

March 14: Chongqing, a city in China, is upgraded to become a centrally administered municipality – the highest level of classification of cities used in China.

March 17: CNN begins broadcasting in Spanish.

March 20: Liggett admits that cigarettes are addictive.

March 26: In one of the most shocking and memorable events that happened in 1997, 39 bodies are found in Heaven’s Gate cult suicides. Read more about this event at the end of our timeline.

March 27: Martin Luther King Jr’s son meets James Earl Ray – his father’s killer.

March 30: Channel 5 begins broadcasting in the UK.

 

April

April 5: The Crocodile Hunter, starring Steve Irwin, debuts.

April 8: Microsoft releases the Internet Explorer 4 Beta.

April 15: Maisie Williams, the actress best known for playing Arya Stark in Game of Thrones, is born in Bristol, England.

April 29: The Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 comes into effect. This outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons among the countries signed.

April 30: Ellen DeGeneres publicly announces that she is gay, as 42 million people watched.

April 30: Bill Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, chooses to go to Stanford College.

1997 timeline

The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin (Image source: Wikimedia)

May

May 1: Tony Blair is elected as the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

May 2: Donald Trump and his wife, Marla Maples, announce that they are separating.

May 2: Mercury Mail announces its one millionth internet subscriber.

May 3: Katrina and the Waves win the 42nd Eurovision Song Contest for the United Kingdom with Love Shine a Light in Dublin.

May 6: The Bank of England is given independence from political control. This marks the most significant change in the bank’s 300 year history.

May 12: Russia and Chechnya sign a peace deal, after more than 400 years of conflict.

May 12: Susie Maroney, of Australia, becomes the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida, a total distance of 110 miles.

May 17: In the FA Cup Final, Chelsea beat Middlesbrough 2-0 at Wembley Stadium, London.

May 19: The Lost World: Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg, premieres in the US.

May 20: An order is signed by Bill Clinton banning any new US investment in Burma, effective from the 21st May and to be renewed annually.

May 24: Tim Allen, actor, is arrested for drunk driving in Michigan.

May 28: Bob Dylan is taken to hospital with histoplasmosis, a lung infection.

May 30: Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s widow, is set on fire by their 12 year old grandson. She died on 23rd June 1997 from her injuries.

May 30: Murderer and rapist Jesse Timmendequas is found guilty by the jury for the rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka in New Jersey. 

 

June

June 1: Hugo Banzer becomes the new President of Bolivia.

June 5: Noel Gallagher of Oasis, aged 30, married Meg Mathews at the Little Church of the West in Las Vegas.

June 9: The British lease on New Territories in Hong Kong expires.

June 10: Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader, orders the killings of Son Sen, his Defense Chief, and 11 members of his family.

June 12: The Globe Theatre opens in London. It is a replica of the original Globe theatre, and it opens with a performance of Henry V.

June 12: Batman and Robin, starring George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell, premieres in Los Angeles.

June 15: Naomi Campbell, a British supermodel, is hospitalised after a drug overdose.

June 26: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling is published. It goes on to sell over 120 million copies worldwide.

 

July

July 1: The United Kingdom returns Hong Kong and the New Territories to China.

July 4: Pathfinder, the US space probe, lands of Ares Vallis Mars.

July 5: Martina Hingis wins the Women’s Title at Wimbledon, at aged 16. This makes her the youngest Wimbledon winner in 110 years.

July 6: Pete Sampras wins the Men’s Title at Wimbledon, making it his 10th Grand Slam title.

July 12: Malala Yousafzai, is born in Mingora, North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan.

July 13: An Indonesian ferry sinks, killing around 77 people.

July 25: Autumn Jackson is found guilty of trying to extort $40 million from Bill Cosby.

July 30: In the Thredbo Landslide in New South Wales, Australia, 18 people are killed.

 

August

August 10: Kylie Jenner, the youngest of the Kardashian family, is born. In 2019, she will become the youngest ever self-made billionaire, according to Forbes.

August 13: South Parks first episode is released.

August 16: The Stanley Cup goes to Russia. This is only the second time that it has left North America.

August 21: In East China, typhoon Winnie kills 140 people, and injures over 3,000.

August 29: Netflix is founded by Marc Randolph and Reece Hastings in California. It started out as an online DVD rental service.

August 31: In perhaps one of the most famous events in 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, is killed in a car crash in Paris, France. She was 36 years old.

1997 timeline

Diana, Princess of Wales. Pictures in 1997. (Image source: Wikimedia)

September

September 5: Athens, Greece, is selected to host the 2004 Olympic Games.

September 5: Mother Teresa dies in India.

September 6: The funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, takes place at Westminster Abbey in London.

September 11: Scotland, after a nationwide referendum, votes to establish a parliament within the United Kingdom.

September 13: Candle in the Wind is released by Elton John as a tribute to his friend, Diana, Princess of Wales.

September 13: Mother Teresa’s State Funeral is held in India.

September 13: Something About the Way You Look Tonight by Elton John is released.

September 15: Oprah Winfrey announces that she will continue to produce her show until 2000.

September 15: google.com is registered as a domain name.

September 16: Steve Jobs is named interim CEO of Apple Computer Inc.

September 18: Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, gives $1 billion to the United Nations – creating the charity The United Nations Foundation.

September 18: Wales votes yes to Welsh autonomy. The result was 50.3% in favour.

September 29: Robbie Williams releases his first solo album Life Thru a Lens. It features the hit single, Angels.

September 30: The gun buyback scheme in Australia ends with more than 640,000 firearms compulsorily acquired. Find more out about this scheme in our 1996 timeline

 

October

October 3: At 280.3 mph, Japan’s maglev trains breaks the world speed record.

October 4: In Texas, the Farm Aid 10 concert is cancelled and moved to Illinois after weak ticket sales.

October 4: With $17.3 million in cash stolen, the second largest robbery in US history takes place in the Charlotte, North Carolina offices of Loomis, Fargo & Co.

October 27: Digital Equipment is bought by Intel Corp for $700 million.

October 27: Microsoft argues that it should be “free from government interference”.

 

November

November 1:Titanic, directed by James Cameron, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet premieres at the Tokyo International Film Festival. It goes on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1998.

November 3: The state of California ends affirmative action. This is a policy that takes into account an individual’s colour, race, sex, religion or national origin.

November 4: I’m Alan Partridge, starring Steve Coogan premieres on BBC Two.

November 4: Shania Twain’s third album Come On Over is released. It receives massive critical acclaim.

November 7: Mr Bean opens in the US. It stars Rowan Atkinson, and is directed by Mel Smith.

November 18: Metallica release their album ReLoad.

November 18: Sony Music Soundtrax releases the album Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture.

November 19: Septuplets are born to the McCaughey family in Iowa. Their names are: Alexis May, Brandon James, Joel Steve, Kelsey Ann, Kenneth Robert, Natalie Sue and Nathaniel Roy.

November 25: Richard Bliss, a US telephone technician, is arrested for spying in Russia.

November 28: 28th November marks the first public appearance of the Kosovo Liberation Army, or the KLA. The KLA are an enthic Albanian guerrilla group that fought for the independence of Kosovo from Serbia.

 

December

December 2: During a game between Bristol Rovers and Wigan, 5 players are sent off. Four players from Bristol Rovers and one from Wigan, making it only the second time in English Football League history that this has happened. Four of the red cards came in the 45th minute.

December 8: At the 8th Billboard Music Awards, the Spice Girls and LeAnn Rimes win.

December 9: Tomorrow Never Dies, the 18th James Bond film, premieres in London. The film stars Pierce Brosnan and Michelle Yeoh.

December 12: A federal judge sentences Autumn Jackson to 26 months for trying to extort Bill Cosby of $40 million. Jackson claims to be Cosby’s daughter.

December 15: Spice World starring the Spice Girls, and directed by Bob Spiers, premieres in the United Kingdom.

December 16: Bill Clinton, the US President, names his Labrador “Buddy”.

December 18: HTML 4.0 is published by the World Wide Web Consortium.

December 23: In the US, the Agriculture Department estimates that to raise a child to 18 years old costs $149,820.

December 24: Christmas Eve 1997 marks the first time that a Chanukah candle is officially lit in the Vatican City.

December 29: Russia signs an agreement to build a $3 billion power plant in China.

December 30: No one is hurt when an abandoned building collapses on 42nd Street, New York.

December 31: Intel nearly halves the price of its Pentium II-223 MHz processor from $401 to $268.

December 31: Hotmail is bought by Microsoft for $400 million, and is relaunched as MSN Hotmail.

December 31: In Sweden, more people died in 1997 than were born – this marked the first time this happened since 1809.

December 31: Both South African and American surgeons separate Zambian twins, joined at the head.

 

Heaven’s Gate Mass Suicide

Heaven’s Gate was a UFO religious cult based near San Diego, California. It was founded and led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles in 1974.

On 26th March 1997, 39 bodies were discovered by San Diego County Sheriff’s Department in a house in Rancho Santa Fe. The members had taken part in a mass suicide, through a series of coordinated ritual suicides, in order to reach an extraterrestrial spacecraft following Comet Hale-Bopp.

Before the suicides took place, the website was updated with the message:

“Hale-Bopp brings closure to Heaven’s Gate. Our 22 years of classroom here on planet Earth is finally coming to conclusion – graduation from the Human Evolutionary Level. We are happily prepared to leave ‘this world’ and go with Ti’s crew.”

 

Diana, Princess of Wales, Dies in Car Crash

One of the most shocking events in the 1997 timeline was the death of the much-loved British Princess. On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car crash in Paris, France. It occurred in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, while the driver was trying to flee paparazzi. The crash also claimed the lives of her partner, Dodi Fayed, and the driver Henri Paul. Her bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, survived the crash.

The funeral was held on 6th September in Westminster Abbey, and was watched by 32.1 million people on British television, and millions more around the world. Her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, along with Prince Charles, the Duke of Edinburgh and brother, Lord Spencer all walked behind her coffin in the funeral procession. 

There was a private burial of Diana, which took place on the same day. Her grave is on an island within the grounds of Althorp Park, where the Spencer home has been for centuries. You can read more about her legacy and Diana’s charity work here.