Sport is great isn’t it! Just imagine a how dull the world would be without sport. No Tiger Woods miracle chips at the 16th hole at Augusta, No ‘Dessie’ getting up on the line to break the heart of Yahoo in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, No ‘The Play’…..If you’re not familiar with the last one, i’ll let commentator Joe Starkey run you through it!
Below is my idea of the 10 best sporting events to visit. Its only my personal view, and no doubt will differ with each of you, but in terms of excitement, drama, location and sporting achievement they tick pretty much every box I can think of.
10: Monaco Grand Prix
I’ll be honest, I hate Motor Racing, a sport where realistically only 3 or 4 cars can win any particular race these days. However the jewel in the crown of the F1 season is the Monaco Grand Prix. Taking place around the iconic streets of Monte Carlo, its an event that will never cease to be entertaining.
9: Greyhound Derby Final
I’m sure people will have their own views on the ethics of racing greyhounds….that’s for another day. From a sporting viewpoint the Greyhound Derby final which has traditionally been held at Wimbledon, but now due to its closure has moved to Towcester is the culmination of a month of intense competition. The final may only take around 40 seconds to complete but it is still one of the most eagerly anticipated races in the UK sporting calendar.
8: UK Open Darts
All major darts tournaments have their own particular appeal, however there is something special about the UK Open, The FA Cup of darts. Played on multiple boards, where the crowd can get right into the thick of the action, it provides a special kind of atmosphere, not seen at most tournaments. The winners each round go into the hat for the next round, where they are drawn at random. With the qualifying events open to regular pub players, it provides the opportunity for some true David v Goliath matches.
7: Melbourne Cup
The first Tuesday in November every year, the race that stops a nation takes place at Flemington racecourse in Melbourne, Australia. Its the excitement of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the style of Royal Ascot all rolled into one. Every year over 100,000 people descend to the track for the 2 mile handicap which pits the best staying handicapers from Australia, New Zealand and Europe. If you haven’t been yet, be sure to mark it down on your ‘to-do’ list.
If you like classy, restrained ‘action focused’ sporting events then the Superbowl might not be your cup of tea. Its big, brash, over-the-top, heavily advertised mayhem. The game itself can almost be a sub-plot to the pre-game and half time shows that envelop it. The match pits the two best teams of the season from the two respective ‘championships’, who fight it out to win the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy.
5: Tour Of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen)
Think of a (usually) grey day in the Northern parts of Belgium, and you might not associate it with great, dramatic sporting events. However for one day each year, a race takes place which pits man versus bike on some of the most difficult roads in Europe. The brutal, short but incredibly steep, cobbled climbs of Koppenberg and Paterberg at almost 13% gradients can literally leave riders on their knees. With the crowd roaring on the local favourites only inches away from the action, the atmosphere is befitting of the race.
4: Olympic Mens 100m Final
Once every four years, the fastest men on earth compete for the 100m gold medal at the Olympics. Whether or not you like the Olympics, whether or not you like athletics, it is hard not to be enthralled and intrigued by the occasion. Usain Bolt rise to a legendary name in track and field, has turned athletics into one of the most watched sports in the world. The Olympic 100m final is the pinnacle of the sport. Doping issues and questions aside, its hard to argue that the sight of Bolt storming down the home straight in a stadium full of 80,000 spectators, cameras flashing, is not one of the most iconic and exhilarating sporting moments to be witnessed.
3: US Masters Golf
From all the sports played throughout the world, its doubtful there is a setting that is as picturesque, inspiring and dramatic as Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, USA. The iconic stretch of holes 11, 12 and 13 which make up ‘Amen Corner’ are geared perfectly to create and play-out superb drama in the first golf major of the year. The top 50 players in the world, along with invites, battle course conditions each year that would make most professionals beg for forgiveness, and would make amateur hackers spend a weeks wages on golf balls just to see them through the full 18 holes.
2: World Snooker Championships
Maybe i’m biased, but for me the World Championships in Sheffield each year are one of the main highlights of the sporting calendar. Since its move to the Crucible theatre in 1977, the World Championships has had the ideal setting to create the suspense and drama that is associated with the game. An arena that holds less than a thousand people, The Crucible feels like it wraps itself around the players as they battle against each other. The closeness of the seats to the snooker tables make it as if the audience can almost reach forward and touch the green baize themselves. Its a whole different type of sporting experience to the glitzy American offerings of the Superbowl or NBA championship games, but in terms of pure sporting drama, virtually nothing comes close to it.
1: Cheltenham Festival
While the Grand National is maybe the UK’s (if not the worlds) most recognizable horse race, in terms of anticipation, setting and quality of the participants no other horse race meeting even comes close to the Cheltenham Festival. Over four days in March, 28 races take place to determine the champions for each category of jumps racing. The first race on the first day, is greeted with a roar from the Cheltenham crowd which reverberates through most betting shops, pubs and homes in the UK and Ireland. The marquee event on the final day of racing is the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a battle over 3 1/4miles of the best staying chasers there is to offer. Over the years there has been many greats to showcase their talents here, from Golden Miller and Cottage Rake, through to modern day hero’s such as Denman and Kauto Star. And of course the greatest of them all, Arkle.
Over the four days of racing over 200,000 people will descend on the course, over 250,000 pints of Guinness will be downed and over 20,000 bottles of champagne will be polished off and over 40,000 burgers will be scoffed
The course’s setting nestled between the Cotswold Hills offers the perfect amphitheatre to play out some of the most exciting horse racing of the season. The course with its undulations and stiff jumping test makes for the perfect challenge for championship racing. The finishing hill has been the scene for many great races and drama. Making both hero’s and villains of the jockeys.
Possibly the most notable race of recent memory held at the festival, was in 1989 as the nations favourite grey, Desert Orchid plugged through the mud to finally win the Gold Cup. Watch it again below.