It's the year so nice, they've named it twice. And given it an extra day to get everything done. Although 2019 had its pockets of excitement in a Rugby World Cup kind of way, 2020 is shaping up to be a blockbuster for all of its 366 days, here and overseas.
Vote early, vote often
Has it really been three years since Winston Peters decided who would be Prime Minister of New Zealand? As well as the general election in November, voters will get to decide weighty questions concerning voluntary euthanasia and marijuana. And with politicians from Maggie Barry to Gareth Hughes stepping down, there will be plenty of new faces to choose from. Some may even come with new ideas attached. Expect a no-holds-barred, bare-knuckle street fight of a campaign reaching new depths of fabrication, fury and foul-mouthed tweets – and that'll just be the National Party leadership contest.
Making elections great again
The longest-running soap opera in US political history – the presidency of Donald J Trump - finishes season one with a great cliff-hanger in November: will he or won't he win re-election? It's extremely unlikely the president will be impeached by the time the election is held – if he ever is at all. And the smart money is, more in sorrow than in smugness, on the likelihood that the reality star has the ratings to have his presidency extended for another season.
A dog's Brexit
We need to start preparing ourselves for the reality that one day Brexit will all be over and we will have to go back to mocking the English for their class system and royal family. The whole fiasco may, of course, be concluded within the next 12 months, although no one really believes that. The key date to note is January 31, which is the latest last absolutely final no this time we really mean it deadline for Britain to leave the EU. Of course, that is a deadline in the same sense that jelly is an excellent construction material in an earthquake zone.
The Games of the 32nd Olympiad will be held in Tokyo from July 24 to August 9. Baseball and softball are back in the Games, having been dropped in 2008. And karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing will make their debuts in the five-ring circus.
New Zealand expects to compete in about 20 of the 33 sports on offer, sending a team that will be named from March to June – so there must be an awful lot of them. An unofficial discipline in which many athletes will compete whether they want to or not is the heat exhaustion endurance event. According to the New York Times, for the past two years 1000 people in Japan have died from heat-related causes in July and August. The International Olympic Committee could move the Games to a cooler month – as it did when Tokyo hosted in 1964 – but has decided not to because that timing doesn't work for US television, which basically funds the event.
Mission to Mars
This is the big one for Nasa, its most complicated and ambitious Martian journey yet. Sometime between July 18 and August 5, the agency will launch the Mars Rover, ETA mid-February 2021. Costing US$2.5 billion ($3.7b), it's a family-friendly mission with cute little add-ons like the opportunity to send your name along for the ride. Nearly 11 million people signed up for that and got a souvenir boarding pass.
The winning entry in the Name the Rover contest will be announced in February. Expect a strong showing by Rovey McRoverface. The mission is going all out to find evidence of life.
"For the first time, the rover carries a drill for coring samples from Martian rocks and soil," according to Nasa. And the names of nearly 11 million earthlings.
This year the world gets a new tallest building. At 828.9m, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – you know, the one with the picture of our Prime Minister on it - has held the record for a decade. But sometime next year, the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia will reach its final height of 1km. Both edifices are the work of the same designer, US architect Adrian Smith.
There's a World Expo in Dubai from October 20 to April 10, 2021 and New Zealand is going. This one has the theme "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future" but is just another chance for countries to sell stuff to each other. It obviously works.
New Zealand's pavilion is costing $53 million, so someone's coining it. These gussied-up trade fairs are direct descendants of the original world's fairs, which in the 19th century included such attractions as African families displayed in cages. Highlights in Dubai will include the Opportunity Pavilion which "aspires to engender empathy in visitors to trigger a desire to act to create a better world", perhaps, for instance, by not indulging in competitive skyscraper building.
If you want to see one of the two solar eclipses that will occur in the next 12 months you're best to head to Asia or Africa on June 21 for an annular eclipse – the kind that leaves a ring of solar fire visible round the moon - or South America on December 14 for a total eclipse. Here we will have to make do with lunar eclipses in January, June and November.
Movie screens will be dominated by remakes, reboots and sequels in 2020. As usual. There is Daniel Craig's final appearance as James Bond in No Time to Die. In the literature section, Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile, Roald Dahl's The Witches, Frank Herbert's Dune and Charles Dickens' David Copperfield all return to the screen.
And it's been a long time between flights – the producers obviously didn't feel the need for speed – but 34 years after the original, Top Gun is getting a sequel with a cast that includes our very own Thomasin Mackenzie. Tim Cruise is also back – presumably he will be aged digitally to make him appear 34 years older on screen. Ditto Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted Face the Music, a sequel 29 years in the making.
It's rarer than a solar eclipse or a new James Bond movie. Every 10 years almost the whole population of the Bavarian town of Oberammergau gets together and puts on a show. The Passion Play tells the story of the last days of Christ in a production that takes between five and seven hours, depending on how fast the actors talk. There will be 100 performances over five months, starting in May.
The chicken or the sneer?
This is Qantas' centenary, celebrating 100 years of snippy service and such dubious innovations as the world's longest flight - the butt-numbing, 19 hour and 19 minute London to Sydney direct. Although Dutch carrier KLM is one year older, Australia's pride and joy is the oldest airline in the English-speaking world. Here in New Zealand it's celebrating the occasion by offering the chance to win return flights to … Australia.
It's been six long years but gamers are finally getting a new PlayStation. The world had to wait in suspense until October to find out the name of the long-anticipated new model – it's called PlayStation 5. It will be launched towards the end of next year – in plenty of time for Christmas - and promises a more immersive experience than previous models, as well as new "adaptive triggers", which sound like something that could keep an army of therapists employed for years. Actually, adaptive triggers mean you can feel the onscreen action through the remote as you play. "There is ray-tracing acceleration in the GPU hardware" and "a completely revamped user interface", says Sony. There is also, according to theverge.com, "new haptic feedback tech that replaces rumble in controllers". What's not to like?
Beethoven is 250 this year and as popular as ever, still the world's most performed classical composer. New recordings, performances of his complete works and more will mark the occasion. The old grouch's anniversary will be celebrated around the world with a slew of concerts, Beethoven tours, compositions inspired by the great man and an avalanche of anniversary merch. Your choir can register online to take part in a mass singing of his Ninth Symphony or his Mass in C in Vienna. Here, the NZSO will perform the Ninth with the Ode to Joy section sung in te reo Māori by Secondary Schools and Youth Choirs in Auckland and Wellington. The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra is performing all nine symphonies in four concerts over nine days.
Old dogs, new tricks
The World Sheep Dog Trials are held in Britain every three years.
"All the world's countries, where there is a recent history of sheepdog handling, are invited to attend this prestigious triennial event in the Sheep Dog calendar," according to the International Sheep Dog Society.
"In 2020 we are privileged once again to be holding a Sheep Dog trial within the beautiful grounds of the Castle Howard Estate."
The 30 nations competing in the last trials brought along whoseagood dogs from as far away as the US, Canada and Uruguay but not New Zealand. Fortunately, local dag rattlers have until September to get in behind for next year's competition.
A Christmas Regatta for all those competing in the America's Cup will be held in Auckland in December. The Cup itself will be raced in 2021, but that's another year.