Around the world, people from all backgrounds enjoy watching sports. Large sporting events thus have the power to bring people together.
What these large sporting events are that people love watching depends largely on the country. Many people from the U.S. prefer watching the American football Super Bowl. A person from India would enjoy the T20 cricket World Cup more.
We love sports because we can see athletes do things that seem almost impossible. But large sporting events are not there for the athletes only. These events would not exist without the viewers. For the athletes, it’s about being the best, but for the viewers, it is about relaxing and having a good time.
In recent years, global sporting events have become larger than life. It is hardly possible to imagine how many people watch these occasions. Do you know what the most-watched sporting event in the world is? Here is a list of the top sports based on the number of television viewers.
The Olympic Games have dominated the list of most-watched sporting events for decades. It is an event that speaks to our imagination. This most-watched sporting event offers a lot of entertainment and a wide range of disciplines. Another factor is that almost all countries take part. This sporting event lasts a little over two weeks.
The modern history of the Olympic Games goes back to 1896. The first Olympics were then held in Athens, Greece. The Games then made history in 1936. People in Berlin and Potsdam could then see a “live stream” in select locations.
The most-watched sporting event ever was the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Almost 4.7 billion viewers enjoyed all or part of the broadcast.
Now, that number is hard to verify, but the average number of viewers is a little easier to assess. During the Beijing Olympics, 600 million people watched on average. The peak moments were the opening and closing ceremonies with 984 and 778 million viewers, respectively.
Tour de France
Number two on the list of most-watched sporting events may be a surprising one. Cycling is not considered one of the main sports, yet the Tour de France is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Some 3.5 billion viewers watched part of this competition.
The Tour de France takes place once a year in July. It lasts 23 days and is one of the toughest cycling races in the world. It requires extreme stamina and is not without physical danger.
Participants race in teams of eight cyclists, and as the name indicates, the race takes place in France. It shows the endurance and power of the cyclists against a backdrop of the beautiful French landscape. The competitor who takes the least time to complete all stages wins.
It is a spectacular event in a beautiful setting, which draws many viewers. It is also one of the longest events in the world of sports. That helps to push up the number of spectators.
FIFA World Cup
The next one on the list of most-watched sporting events in the world is not a real surprise. Football, or soccer, has an international appeal. It is the most popular sport in the world. The popularity of football is still increasing, and it is the number one sport in many countries.
The FIFA World Cup takes place once every four years and features national soccer teams from 32 countries. The 32 teams first play matches in a four-team “poule” system. The numbers one and two of each poule continue to the following knockout stages.
Numbers released by FIFA showed that over 3.5 billion viewers watched the last World Cup in 2018. Not all these viewers watched at the same time. It was the final match that drew the most viewers: 516.6 million people watched the FIFA World Cup final. France beat Croatia 4–2 in the final. It is interesting to note that the number of viewers is even higher than reported, as many used digital channels to watch the games.
The average number of viewers over the entire tournament was 191 million. This was four million more on average compared to the 2014 soccer World Cup in Brazil. The last five editions all drew more than three billion viewers.
More than any other sporting event, the FIFA World Cup brings people together. There is hardly any other event that arouses more passion at an international level. Football is also becoming more popular in the United States, although people there prefer to call it soccer.
Cricket World Cup
Cricket is not as popular as, let’s say, football or soccer. But it scores very high on the list of most-watched sports events.
The Cricket World Cup is a four-year event, and there are a men’s and a women’s cup. The most recent edition was in England from May to July 2019. Only ten teams competed and had to divide the total prize pool of four million US dollars.
According to numbers from the International Cricket Counsel, or the ICC, 1.6 billion people watched the 2019 Cricket World Cup. More than 4.5 billion people watched the tournament’s digital video. The 2019 World Cup, organized by England and Wales, set new viewership records. It was the most-watched cricket event ever in the world.
The Summer Games have a wintertime counterpart. The Winter Olympics feature different sports that have a link with winter, such as skiing, ice skating, and bobsledding. Winners can win a gold, silver, or bronze medal, just like in the Summer Olympics.
The Winter Games are not as popular as the Summer Games. Still, it is the fifth most-watched sporting event in the world. That means that each time, it attracts some two billion viewers.
Boxing was already a popular sport with the ancient Greeks who lived around the 7th century B.C.
Now, in the 21st century, most of us will not watch a boxing match every day. Still, the big matches attract millions of viewers around the world.
One of the big names in boxing is Muhammed Ali. He popularized the sport long before there was any such thing as . When Ali fought Leon Spinks on September 15, 1978, almost half of all Americans tuned their TV sets to that broadcast. On that day, around the world, two billion sports fans saw how Ali defeated Spinks.
Women’s World Cup
The FIFA Women’s World Cup is gaining more and more popularity. That was evident from the international interest in the event in France in 2019.
The Women’s World Cup follows the same format as the men’s. The event lasts around a month and has initial group stages followed by a knockout stage.
Considering the success of the American ladies’ team, it is no wonder that this event attracts many viewers in the U.S. But not only the Americans love the Women’s World Cup. Around the world, some 1.12 billion sports fans watched the event .
More than half of the world’s population is Asian. No wonder the Asian Games attract more than one billion viewers.
The Asian Games are rather like the Summer Olympic Games, except that only athletes from Asia compete. It features disciplines such as basketball, archery, golf, cycling, and canoeing.
The first Asian Games, or Asiad, was in 1951 in New Delhi, India. The last ones were in 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
UEFA Champions League
Without a doubt, soccer is the most watched sport in the world. The yearly UEFA Champions League final is somewhat comparable to the impact of the American football Super Bowl.
The Champions League is one of the most prestigious competitions in the world. In it, Europe’s best football teams compete. Viewers will be able to see the best players, such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, in action.
In 2018, the UEFA Champions League final in Kyiv attracted 380 million viewers.
The Super Bowl has been the topic of controversy in the last couple of years. Still, it is one of the most watched sporting events in the U.S. and in the world.
The Super Bowl is the culminating event of the National Football League (NFL). It has been the final game of the American football season since 1966. Some of the highlights are the excitement, the half-time show, and the famous expensive television ads. Many people even skip work the Monday after the game to get the most out of this thrilling event.
In 2012 the New York Giants faced the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. That edition drew 111.5 million viewers. That number is quite remarkable, seeing that outside the U.S. few people take an interest in this sport.
The regular National Basketball Association (NBA) season consists of 82 games for each of the teams. But it becomes very interesting once the playoffs begin. Thirty teams fight to get one of the 16 playoff spots. Of these 16 teams, only two will reach the final game.
The NBA finals are a spectacular event. It has an atmosphere of excitement, and the players’ skills are incredible. Add to that the many celebrities that attend, and you can see why many people love this event.
The NBA finals in 1998 saw the Chicago Bulls playing Utah Jazz. It featured three of the best players of all time. Michael Jordan was playing for the Bulls and the Jazz had John Stockton and Karl Malone. The sixth game of the finals series had almost 36 million viewers.
In 2022 16.9 million viewers saw how the Golden State Warriors beat the Boston Celtics.
NCAA Final Four
The NBA is the U.S.’ highest tier in basketball, and it features the best players. Before players move to the NBA, young players play for college teams.
The NCAA Final Four is the final part of the college basketball season. It has the best young talents who are getting ready to move to the NBA.
America’s biggest basketball cities host the NCAA final and semi-finals. Basketball fans go wild and will do anything to see the matches. The tickets to the events sell out weeks before the games.
In 2022 the viewers averaged 18.1 million. That year, spectators saw how Kansas defeated the University of North Carolina.
It lasts only two minutes, but the Kentucky Derby is one of the most-watched sporting events. It is “the fastest two minutes in sports” and has gained international fame. In the last couple of years before 2019, the number of viewers for the Kentucky Derby has increased steadily. In 2019 the number had risen to 16 million, a number that includes many digital viewers.
One of the most spectacular editions was in 1989. In that year, there was a thrilling rivalry between the horses Easy Goer and Sunday Silence. In the head-to-head race, Sunday Silence turned out to be the better on Churchill Downs.
It is curious to note that Sunday Silence went on to win the Preakness. Easy Goer later won Belmont Stakes, thus thwarting Sunday Silence’s claim to the Triple Crown.
Million World Series
The Million World Series is another one of the U.S.’ spectacular sporting events. It is the final of the Major League Baseball (MLB) season. In the World Series, the winner of the National League faces the winner of the American League. The winner is the one that beats the other team in a series of seven games. In 2021, the Atlanta Braves won the 117th edition.
It is true that the World Series is not as popular as it once was. But it still is one of the most-watched sporting events. The peak for the 2021 edition was 14.3 million baseball enthusiasts for the sixth game.
The teams that play in the World Series determine how many people will tune in for the games. Big-market teams attract many more viewers.
In 1978, the Los Angeles Dodgers played the New York Yankees, which resulted in a peak in numbers. The low point was in 2012 when the Detroit Tigers lost to the San Francisco Giants.
Rugby World Cup
The Rugby World Cup is a new player on the list of most-watched sporting events. The game of rugby goes back, however, to 1823. The first rugby broadcast was in 1938.
Like many other main sporting events, the Rugby World Cup is a four-year tournament. It lasts just over six weeks, and 20 of the best teams battle to win the cup.
The World Cup final is the most important rugby tournament and features teams from all over the world. There are teams from Australia, England, France, Japan, and Wales.
Rugby has the nickname “the gentlemen’s game,” which is humerous considering the physical nature of the sport. The World Cup final attracts 12.8 million rugby enthusiasts.
The Masters is the most-viewed sporting event in golf. Augusta, Georgia, U.S.A., has been the venue for the golf tournament since 1933. The rich history and the prize pool of $11.5 million make the Masters championship a special event.
One of the biggest names in golf history is Tiger Woods. His breakthrough came at the 1997 Masters. That year, the number of viewers peaked at 4.3 million. The Masters also holds the record for the most-watched golf broadcast. In 2019 10 million people watched the golf presentation.
There are four Grand Slam tennis tournaments each year. Wimbledon may be the most famous of them. It is thus not a surprise that it enjoys many millions of viewers.
Also in person, it is one of the biggest tournaments in the world. In 2022 515,164 people visited the All-England Club to see a match.
The number of viewers receives a boost from the different digital platforms that offer a broadcast of the tournament. The BBC reports 53.8 million viewers throughout the two weeks of the tournament. This is an amazing number considering the 30.5 million BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport online users in 2021.
The 2022 edition was also a record in terms of the number of hours watched. It was the highest since 2016 when Andy Murray won.
The BBC reported a peak of 7.5 million viewers for the men’s final. In addition to TV watchers, there were 2.6 million streamers on BBC iPlayer and Sport Online. The 2021 Wimbledon men’s final enjoyed 7.8 million BBC viewers. Again, the final between Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios was the match with the most viewers in the tournament.
Conclusion on the Most Watched Sporting Event in the World
Whether it is an exciting football game or the biggest sporting event, they attract billions of viewers. Some of them are die-hard fans that root for their favorites, others are casual viewers.
By far, the most-watched sporting event is the Summer Olympics. The reasons are clear. It features the best athletes for all countries, and the Olympics has something for everyone.
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