Here in Queensland we’ve just experienced the thrill of the Commonwealth Games. Without trying we were all caught up in the fanfare, fabulous events and sporting rivalries that made the Games such a roaring success. We witnessed the highest highs, some low moments, near misses and unexpected upsets. And we did it with passion, even if we’d never before watched a ping pong match!
If travel is about expanding your horizons, experiencing something new and connecting with different people, then adding one of the world’s great sporting events to your wanderlust list is a must. We’re talking large scale events in fabulous destinations. Events that give you an insight into local culture, where you get to meet fans from near and far, and you witness great sporting achievements.
This is the sort of travel that combines culture, history, sights, sounds, tastes and a whole lot of passion. Frankly there’s also no need to be completely clued up on the sport in question as you’re bound to get plenty of advice from knowledgeable diehard fans. It’s all part of the fun.
So which events make the cut in our list of greatest sporting events to add to you wanderlust list? Read on to find out…..
Get your Latin on with a trip to Argentina and take in the elegant, graceful sport of polo. The Argentineans are considered the very best polo players in the world, and each year host the single most important polo tournament on the globe. Attracting the world’s greatest equestrian athletes and elite thoroughbreds, the River Plata Polo Championships (as it was known) began in 1893. As old as the Tango itself, the championship is held in the ‘Cathedral of Polo’ in Palermo in bustling Buenos Aires. This sport is old world, think Great Gatsby, wealthy patrons and royal connections. Tie in your polo experience with a stay in this vibrant city that offers museums, markets, parklands and restaurants. All of which come with a spicy dose of South American flavour.
24 hours!! Need we say more? This epic event is the world’s oldest active sports car race. A prestigious test of innovation and endurance held every June near the town of Le Mans in France. The week-long build up to the big day features parades, concerts and the chance to get close to the cars and drivers. There’s plenty to do even if you think you’re a little non-pulsed on the actual driving side of things. Rest assured the actual race will see you backing your chosen team fervently as around 46 cars compete to go the farthest distance in 24 hours. Throw into the mix a chance to explore the picturesque French countryside and sip a glass of champagne or two whilst slapping a wedge of brie into a crusty baguette, and you’re sure to be say ‘Oui, oui, oui’ all the way to Le Mans!
Seeing some of the world’s most passionate fans supporting their team is quite possibly reason enough to head to a FIFA World Cup. The spectacle of Vuvuzela madness in 2010 is testament to just how festive, fiery and heartfelt true football (or soccer if you prefer) fans are. Every four years 32 qualifying countries compete over the course of a month to be crowned champion of ‘the world game’. In Brazil in 2014, over 3.4 million people attended the 64 matches creating a festival atmosphere like none other. Russia is set to host this year and 2022 will see Qatar take the honours. No matter where the location, the melting pot of nationalities makes this the most international of all the great sporting events in the world.
Golf has been played on the Links at St Andrews in Fife, Scotland since the 1400’s. No wonder the club boasts the title ‘the home of golf’! The Open or British Open is the oldest of the 4 major golfing tournaments and the only one held outside of the United States. The competition moves around each year but if you can catch it at St Andrews, your travel experience will be one to be noted down in history. In 2021 the 150th Open is set to be played at the historic club, making it a golfing event for the record books. Add into your plans some ancient ruins, highland dancing and haggis and you’ll have an all round Scottish experience. Just don’t forget to pack for the full Scottish weather experience too!
The Circuit de Monaco is arguably the most intricate and demanding course on the Formula One calendar. Without question it is by far the most glamorous of locations. The race takes over the streets of this densely populated tiny principality, hugs the marina which is full to bursting with expensive water craft, and passes the famous Monte Carlo casino. If travel teamed with glamour and high-octane, pulse pumping racing is what you’re looking for, Monaco Grand Prix is for you. And given that Monaco is just a stone’s throw from the French Riviera, you can also take in Cannes and Nice (fancy a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais?). Or hop across the border to Italy for a pizza.
Let’s face it, outside of the USA most of us struggle to understand anything that goes on during the 60 minutes of an American Football game. Superbowl, or Superbowl Sunday as it is known, sees the top teams of the National Football Conference (NFC) and American Football Conference (AFC) – yes it’s complicated – battle it out on the pitch for the Vince Lombardi Trophy (not to mention the diamond studded rings that will also be awarded). Gridiron may not be your thing but there is no doubt that the Americans can put on a show like no one else. The fanfare, half time show, hotdogs, chicken wings and all other associated hype showcases a true “all American’ experience for any traveller who is lucky enough to get a ticket!
Some may say that the Grand National is the greatest horse race in the world, but it can be argued that ‘the race that stops a nation’ takes that honour. Each November the highlight of Melbourne’s Spring Carnival is the Melbourne Cup handicap race held at Flemington Racetrack. It’s one of the richest turf races in the world and attracts racing fanatics as well good time revellers who simply want to have a flutter. Given that almost as much fuss is made about the fashions of the day as of the horses, those who are new to horse racing will feel right at home. Located in Melbourne with it’s fabulous shopping, sensational cuisine and cultural icons, this close-to-home great sporting event might be the one for you.
Dating back to the 16th century, it doesn’t get much more historic than this annual match of soccer/rugby/wrestling. Held in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, Italy, with players decked out in historical costume, this spectacle is something to behold. Rival neighbourhoods battle it out using medieval tactics not for the feint-hearted with, first prize being a chianina calf. If stepping back in time is what you are after, this sport showcases athleticism from a completely different era! Hosted in the home of the renaissance, making this great sporting event part of your travel plans means you’ll also be able to take in great works of art and culture. Plus of course some sumptuous Italian food and wine!
It doesn’t get much classier than this oh-so English tennis tournament. Prestigious in everything from the strict dress code to the Pimms (not to mention the strawberries and cream), the All England Club in Wimbledon has been hosting the competition since 1877. It’s the only Major still played on grass and attracts the who’s who of tennis, both on and off the court. Of course we’re talking London here, so aside from an education in tennis and old-school English society, there’s plenty of London sight-seeing to tie in with your tennis touring!
Australia & England have been battling for the Ashes since 1882, when after the first Australian win on English soil a satirical obituary proclaimed that English cricket had died, would be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. It does pay to know a little about the game to get the most out of a travel experience that takes in The Ashes. Spending a summer travelling and supporting your chosen team takes dedication. But dedication is what cricket fans are known for and the investment is worth it for fans, and possibly their significant others. This is a chance to see a bit of the world and be part of the historic rivalry that sees matches played out in 5 locations either in the UK or in Australia each year.