The language of sport is universal. It does not matter whether you speak Dutch, English, Portuguese or Swahili, once players step foot on a court or pitch their actions are all that matter. So, it is no surprise that sport is so popular around the world, both in terms of being played and people watching sporting events.
When it comes to sporting events, people tune in from all around the globe to witness the spectacle of the best athletes competing against each other for glory and silverware. Sure, each country will have their own favourites whether that be baseball in the USA, football in England, or Kabaddi in India. But what are the most popular sporting events in the world?
Well, we could look at this in two different ways. We could look at overall sporting events such as the Olympics, or we could break it down into individual sporting events such as one-off games. But as some events run much longer than others, and others have more events involved, we thought in terms of fairness we will cover just individual sporting events for this one.
Although, if interested, you could check out some research findings below from Statista released in 2018 that show the most watched sporting events as a whole:
But as interesting as that is, let us look at which individual sporting events are the most watched around the globe.
Top 5 Sporting Events
5 – 2012 Summer Olympics: 100m Sprint
The Olympics are a popular sporting event, and people tune in to watch a whole host of different events from badminton to swimming and hockey to weightlifting. However, there is no event more popular than the 100m sprint which takes place toward the end of the Olympics with the rest of the track and field events.
In 2012, there was not a person on this planet that had not heard of the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt and around 150 million people tuned in around the world to watch him pick up yet another gold medal before retiring. Nearly a third of those viewers were made up purely of viewers from the UK (20 million; BBC) and the USA (35 million; NBC).
4 – 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup Final
Watched by over 250 million viewers around the world, the ICC Cricket World Cup final is the fifth most popular sporting event in recent years.
Taking place every four years, the International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup is the biggest event in the sport’s calendar. The last edition of the tournament took place in 2019 and was co-hosted by England and Wales, the former going on to win one of the most exciting finals in sporting history against New Zealand who was looking not to record back-to-back defeats having lost to Australia in 2015.
Unfortunately for New Zealand, they fell short once again to allow England to record their first-ever ICC Cricket World Cup triumph. However, they could not have come any closer to winning it themselves. At the end of 50 overs, both teams were tied on 241 runs. The game then went to a super over, where both sides equalled each other’s scores again with 15 runs apiece. However, England won the competition based on a higher boundary count of 26 to New Zealand’s 17.
3 – UEFA Euro 2020 Final
We are now into the section of this list that becomes dominated by the greatest sport in the world, football. It is the most streamed sport on the planet, as evidenced by the next three events on our list.
First up, is the 2020 UEFA Euro Final, which took place a year later in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. A live average of 328 million tuned in to watch the final which saw England beaten by Italy on penalties.
The host nation England was hoping that they could finally bring football home by securing their first international honour since 1966. And things looked promising as LB Luke Shaw put the three lions 1-0 up just two minutes in. But Leonardo Bonucci managed to draw Italy level in the 67th minute.
The game was forced into extra time and poor choices made by Gareth Southgate to start a useless Harry Kane and then sub three young players on to take penalties with barely any time to warm up backfired, as the young lions missed their spot kicks to allow Italy to win and send football to Rome rather than home.
2 – 2021 Champions League Final
Whilst the Premier League may be seen as the best domestic competition around the globe, it is the UEFA Champions League that is the pinnacle of club cup competitions for many as the best teams from across Europe compete to be crowned the Kings of Europe.
The viewing figures of the 2022 Champions League final have not been completely released, plus I would rather forget it anyway as Liverpool lost, so we are using the figures from the 2021 final where Chelsea beat Manchester City which was witnessed by 700 million globally.
The viewing figures are expected to be higher for the 2022 final, and there was growth in viewing numbers in the US where this became the most watched final in US history. But there may well be delays in figures being released as there were issues with attendance at the actual ground. It is safe to say it was a bit of a disaster with French police found to be guilty of attacking fans and wrongly blaming them for trouble that was caused by the poor organisation of UEFA and the French authorities.
Anyway, here is how the 2021 final went down that managed to get this sporting event into second place on our list as told by 442oons.
1 – 2014 FIFA World Cup Final
And on to the biggest of all the events, the FIFA World Cup final, for which there will be another this year in what will be the first ever tournament to take place during winter months as it is hosted in Qatar. Viewing numbers will be interesting for this one with many saying they will boycott the competition due to the human rights violations committed in that region of the world.
So, whilst it may not set a new record we can appreciate the current one we have which was set during the 2014 World Cup. Germany faced Argentina as one of the greatest players of all time Lionel Messi was looking to win a first major international honour, something at that point that had eluded him for some time. No matter how many trophies he had with Barcelona back then, he was unable to inspire his home nation to similar success.
And he would not manage it in 2014 either, as Germany played out a 1-0 win that attracted over one billion viewers around the world. That will take some beating.
Closing thoughts on the top sporting events
And there we have it, the top five sporting events watched around the world. We’re not really surprised that football reigns supreme in this list, it is the most popular sport on the planet after all. Did you watch any of these sporting events yourself? Maybe you attended in person. Either way, let us know in the comment what stories you have of watching your favourite sporting events.