The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (Feb. 6)

After an eventful 2011, in which she saw her grandson William marry Kate Middleton, Queen Elizabeth has two major events to celebrate in 2012. She turns 86 on April 21, but on Feb. 6, she will mark the 60th anniversary since her ascension to the throne. She and Prince Philip will mark the Diamond Jubilee on the home front, touring Britain; the rest of the royals will fan out across the globe. Prince William and Kate are set to visit countries like Malaysia and Singapore, while Prince Harry makes a solo trip to the Caribbean. Prince Charles and Camilla’s itinerary includes Australia, New Zealand and a May tour of Canada.

The Academy Awards (Feb. 26)

It’s still two months off, but the 2012 Oscar ceremony is already flush with controversy. In November, director Brett Ratner uttered a homophobic slur at the premiere for his latest film, Tower Heist. After complaints from gay groups, Ratner resigned as producer of the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony; in solidarity, Tower Heist star Eddie Murphy resigned as host of the Oscars. The evening will now be hosted by perennial favourite Billy Crystal. Judging by early award buzz, he is likely to be joined by fellow Hollywood stalwarts Martin Scorsese (for the children’s fantasy Hugo), Steven Spielberg (Warhorse) and Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris). 

French elections (April 22)

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy will face stiff competition in his country's national elections, which take place in April. (Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images )

Nicolas Sarkozy has undertaken a proactive foreign policy, vocally championing NATO’s intervention in Libya and being a key voice in the attempts to defuse Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. At home, however, the French president is deeply unpopular, with an approval rating of only 26 per cent. Sarkozy hasn’t officially announced his candidacy for the April presidential elections, but he undoubtedly will, and observers say that his low ratings, coupled with divisions in the political left, could result in significant gains for the National Front party, which has faced criticism in the past for its anti-immigrant policies.

Facebook to go public (sometime between April and June)

According to a well-sourced report in the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is slated to go public in the second quarter of 2012. Initial estimates suggest that the IPO could raise as much as $10 billion US for Mark Zuckerberg and his social media company, giving it a total estimated valuation of $100 billion. Despite ongoing concerns about the site’s privacy policy, Facebook continues to pull in users – as of July 2011, it had more than 800 million.

UEFA Euro 2012 (June 8-July 1)

OK, so it’s not as big as the World Cup, but people around the globe will still watch top-flight soccer talent, including Spain’s David Villa, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Germany’s Miroslav Klose, play in the UEFA Euro cup. Spain won the 2008 tourney, which was co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland. This year’s contest will be co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, who as hosts automatically qualify for the tournament. After finishing in the final six in the 2006 World Cup, Ukraine will appear in its first European soccer championship.

Mexican general election (July 1)

Voters in Mexico go to the polls to choose the 128 members of the federal senate, as well as the 500 members of its congress, which is called the Chamber of Deputies. Most notably, the country will elect a new president to replace Felipe Calderon, who is ineligible for re-election. Finding a workable strategy to eradicate the country's ongoing drug violence is sure to be a key election issue.

Egyptian presidential elections (sometime before July)

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Amr Moussa, right, is one of the leading contenders in Egypt's presidential election, which is slated for some time before the middle of 2012. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

After the protests that led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in February and popular resentment of the transitional military rulers, much is riding on Egypt’s presidential elections, which may turn out to be the most democratic in its history. Once-persecuted parties like the Muslim Brotherhood made strong gains in parliamentary elections in November and December, which means that the eventual president is going to have to contend with a strong Islamist presence in the government. Mohammed ElBaradei, former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, are the biggest contenders so far, but the race will undoubtedly continue to evolve.

London Olympics (July 27-Aug. 12)

Come July, athletes from more than 200 countries will descend on London for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. With this event, the British capital will become the first city to have hosted the Olympics three times in the modern era (the others were 1908 and 1948). Amid the usual concerns about security and cost overruns, organizers are fending off controversy over the logo, which some see as too closely resembling a swastika. As well, the Indian Olympic Association has spoken out against one of the sponsors, Dow Chemical — in 2001, Dow bought Union Carbide, the company responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, which killed thousands.

U.S. election (Nov. 6)

With its odd cast of characters and outrageous pronouncements, the race to nominate a Republican candidate for the 2012 U.S. presidential contest has been abundantly entertaining. But the sparks will only truly fly once the GOP nominee is chosen and squares off against the incumbent. Polls suggest that Americans are largely displeased with Barack Obama’s efforts to lift the economy. Will they grant him a second chance, or oust him in favour of a tough-talking newbie?

Chris Hadfield launches into space (late Nov./early Dec.)

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Astronaut Chris Hadfield will set off on another space mission in December 2012, and will take command of the International Space Station in March 2013. (Marketwire Photo/Canadian Space Agency)

In 2012, Col. Chris Hadfield will begin a journey that will take him into space and the history books. Late in the year, the Sarnia, Ont. will pilot the Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). In March 2013, he will become the first Canadian astronaut to command the ISS. A veteran of two space shuttle expeditions, Hadfield will oversee Expedition 35, a six-month mission that will likely include a number of scientific experiments and use of the robotic Canadarm2 for assembly and maintenance tasks on the station.

The end of the world (Dec. 21)

Many groups and cultures have prophesied the end of the world, but the Mayan prediction seems to hold the most popular interest. Dec. 21, 2012, marks the conclusion of a significant period in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, and is thus thought to herald the end of life as we know it. Some observers tell us to expect a spiritual transformation rather than Armageddon, while Mayan scholars tell us to expect business as usual, saying the Mayans never made any claims about the apocalypse. Whew.