sporting capital of the world
Best of the Rest,  General

What is the sports capital of the world?

Today we’re going to head around the globe and look at some cities which lay claim to the title of sports capital of the world. With 2020 something of a write-off for major sports events, at least with spectators present, summer 2021 is shaping up to be a big one with huge delayed events such as Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics taking place. Here are some of the best sporting cities in the world.


What is the best sports city in the world? – 5 Contenders


London

Wimbledon tennis
Wimbledon Tennis via vic15, CC BY 2.0

When it comes to being the sporting capital of the world 2021, London is tough to beat. In July it will host the Semi-Finals and Final of the delayed Euro 2020 – the biggest football event this calendar year – in the same week as the conclusion of Wimbledon meaning all sporting eyes will be on the British capital. After a torrid year in which sports fans have been absent from London’s many sporting stadiums and arenas, big crowds at iconic venues such as Wembley and Wimbledon’s Centre Court will be a major positive step back on the road to sporting normality.

London will also be home to six Premier League football teams when the new 2021/22 season following Brentford’s recent promotion. The city also serves as the home of the English cricket and rugby teams and hosts some of the biggest boxing bouts in the world. It is also the only European city to regularly stage NFL games. Its sporting credentials are underlined by its status as the only city to have hosted three Olympic Games, although both Paris and Los Angeles will equal that record later this decade.

Melbourne

Melbourne regularly bills itself as the sports capital of the world. Strict immigration policies since the start of the pandemic have ensured that certainly hasn’t been the case of late with major sporting events such as the F1 Australian Grand Prix at historic Albert Park cancelled. The city is also the home of one of tennis’ four majors and those two major international events give it the edge on long-standing rival Sydney when it comes to being the sports capital of Australia.

The iconic 100,000 capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground is the city’s largest sporting venue. As well as hosting the famous Boxing Day test match, the MCG was the setting for the 1956 Summer Olympics and has hosted a large number of other sports during its long history.

Few countries have such a raw passion for sport as Australia so Melbourne is certainly a very strong contender for the global crown. However critics may argue that Aussie Rules and Rugby League, the two most popular spectator sports in the country, are simply not sports with widespread global interest.

Buenos Aires

sporting capital of the world

If this was a competition to be the world’s football capital, Buenos Aires would be tough to beat. There are a staggering number of professional clubs in the metropolitan area of the Argentine capital with no fewer than 13 Greater Buenos Aires sides in the 2021 Argentine Primera División. Those clubs play in front of some of the most intense sporting crowds in the world and whether it’s giants like River Plate and Boca Juniors, or some of the smaller clubs, going to a football match in Buenos Aires should be on the bucket lists of any sports enthusiast.

However does the city have enough else going on to be a serious contender as the global sporting capital? Well, aside from football it’s other great love is Tango and Buenos Aires is the home of the annual International Tango Festival and World Cup. Polo, rugby, tennis and golf are other popular sports but it doesn’t have the kind of range of international events to compete with cities like Melbourne or London and even recent bids for major football competitions have been unsuccessful due to economic and structural problems.

New York, USA

In North America, there are lots of major cities with multiple teams spread across the big American sports leagues. New York has the most with two franchises in each of the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and MLS. That includes some of the biggest names in American sports such as the New York Yankees and New York Giants and for lovers of US sporting culture, whenever you head to the Big Apple, you can be pretty sure there will always be a game on for you to attend.

In terms of international events, the city also hosts the US Open Tennis and New York state also regularly hosts golf majors such as the US Open and PGA Championship. Throw in some of the biggest fights in the world at the iconic Madison Square Garden which has hosted all the boxing greats. New York certainly knows how to put on a show and is certainly one of the world’s great sporting cities.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town surfer
Surfing in Cape Town via Andrew Beard, CC BY 2.0

A bit like Australia, South Africa is another sports-mad nation with football, rugby union, cricket and golf among the most popular options. Durban gives Cape Town a run for its money in terms of being South Africa’s sporting capital but the latter perhaps just shades it and it’s certainly one of the most stunningly set cities to watch a game of sport.

Its most famous venues are both called Newlands and have both hosted major sports matches since the late 19th Century. Both the cricket and neighbouring rugby stadium regularly host the South African national teams and major international matches and are overlooked by the spectacular Table Mountain.

The city’s coastal location at the point where two oceans meet, also makes it a fantastic city for water sports with a range of surfing, diving and snorkelling making it one of the best locations to try out new sports as well as watch them.


Verdict – What is the true sports capital of the world?

This will very much depend on your perspective and how you define a sporting capital. Overall we’d probably have to just edge towards London. Certainly in terms of world class venues, it’s almost unrivalled with five outdoor stadiums with capacities of more than 60,000 plus a number of outstanding indoor venues as well as the Olympic Park which has facilities for a large range of sports.

Several of those major stadiums host clubs in the English Premier League – the world’s most popular sports league and the sheer volume of world class sporting events throughout the year, gives London the edge on rivals such as Melbourne and New York.


This article was published in June 2021.


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