I’m no sports enthusiast. Not in the slightest. I’ve simply never seen the appeal. However, I have, at times, been persuaded to attend a pro basketball or American football game and found myself enjoying the competitive, carnival-like atmosphere. It’s infectious. People all over the world crave the competition, whether it’s an alley football match between groups of kids, or an international event with a production level that rivals Hollywood blockbusters.
Additionally, more and more travelers are either including international sporting events in their travels, or making a certain event the main reason for their trip. With major events, and minor ones, held in virtually every corner of the globe, it’s easy to tailor a trip to include as much, or as little, sports action as you like.
I’m from the United States, and car racing in the USA is something completely unique, and very different from the car racing events held in the rest of the world. Had I been more of a fan, I might have been aware early on that Formula 1 is considered to be far superior to NASCAR. As it is, I never watched or even paid attention to either. Until we moved to Abu Dhabi, that is.
Yas Marina Circuit is the location of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, held this year on November 3,4, and 5, and is just minutes from my house. I have walked the 5.5 kilometers of that track, which is open to the public on most Tuesdays and Sundays, and marveled at the absolute splendor of it. Add to that the concerts and other events that are held on race weekends, and I definitely see the appeal.
Throughout the season, races are held in places all over the world. Monte Carlo, Shanghai, Budapest, New Delhi and Sao Paolo are just a few of the cities holding fabulous race weekend events. If those events are even half as lavish as the one on order for Abu Dhabi this weekend, I consider Formula 1 to be one of the ultimates in a sports vacation.
Easily one of the oldest, and most loved, of international sporting events, horse racing enthusiasts and gamblers the world over look forward to annual races as they might look forward to the birth of a child. The glitz and glamour of race meets are legendary, as is evident by the star studded photos that turn up in the tabloids after a race is over.
While many countries hold local “bush” events, the big races offer millions of dollars in prize money and the finest and most carefully bred and trained horses in the world. The most famous of these races are carefully orchestrated events designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of people, and include parties, concerts and other activities.
Each of the top races prides itself on being the best, but each also has something unique to offer. The Dubai World Cup, held in Dubai, UAE in March, is the richest horse race in the world with a ten million dollar purse. Sheikh Maktoum, Dubai’s ruler, enters his own horses in the race, and the well-known opulence displayed in the UAE is increased tenfold for this fabulous event.
Royal Ascot in England is held over five days in June. Attended by the Royals and with a strict dress code enforced, this is one of the most attended racing events in the world. The Gold Cup is the most prestigious race held during this event, and the aristocracy and the rest of us turn out in droves of over 300,000 strong, making this one of the best attended race meetings in the world.
The Kentucky Derby in the United States is undoubtedly one of the most iconic races in the world and epitomizes the Sport of Kings. Held each year in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May, this race, the first in the Triple Crown series, showcases the best 3 year old Thoroughbreds in the world. Additionally, the legendary mint juleps and the ostentatious hats and costumes worn by the attendees and the festive atmosphere combine to create one of the United States’ most loved sporting events.
Boxing has always been a popular sport around the world, and famous fights have garnered international attention. After all, who can forget the Rumble in the Jungle held in then Zaire in 1974 between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman? Since then, and with the rise in popularity of the UFC, boxing has become an international phenomenon, with fights held in cities around the world.
Las Vegas may always be synonymous with the prize fight, but international destinations such as Macao, Dubai, Rio de Janeiro and Stockholm have all offered up great fight cards this year, with thousands of people attendance, and many more paying hefty fees to watch on television.
Additionally, Thailand, where the mother of UFC, Muay Thai, originated, also sees a significant number of tourists arriving solely to experience the sport. Whether actively training for their own fighting career or as a spectator, thousands of travelers seek out the best trainers and fighters that Thailand has to offer.
Whether making an elaborate trip for one of the four-year extravaganzas like the Olympics or the World Cup, or taking in one of the yearly events, sporting event travel is something that travelers from all walks of life are experiencing more and more. Sadly, I’m not going to be in attendance at the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend, but I may climb to the roof with a pair of binoculars to see what I can see.
After all, it’s not NASCAR, people. It’s Formula 1.
Have you traveled solely to take in a sporting event? What would be your dream sports-themed trip? Share your ideas and experiences with us in the comments section below!