Ranking the Biggest Events in Sports
Each corner of our athletic planet is stocked with unique cultural flavors. From muddy horse races to elegant cricket matches, there is little that hasn't been tried.
And we're here to find out which events reign supreme, which battles absorb the most cash and attract the most awe-inspired viewers.
As we search the world in search of the greatest events, we must take into account that each offers its own taste of athleticism, it's own brand of entertainment.
Enjoy the more than slight culture shock.
Here are the biggest events in sports.
Or rather, every sports fan's ultimate bucket list.
25. The Rose Bowl, United States
Image via u2start.com
Rose pedals and football, that's what Pasadena does.
Established in 1902 and played annually since 1916, the Rose Bowl holds standing as the oldest bowl game. It hosts the Big Ten and Pacific-12 conference champions (unless they're in the National Championship), and rarely attracts any fewer than 90,000 blood-thirsty patrons.
Stat: 91,245...attendance at this year's game.
24. Monaco Grand Prix, Monaco
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Held in the streets of Monaco since 1929, this tumultuous competition is among the most prestigious in the world in regards to racing.
Perhaps the most demanding course in Formula One, the Circuit de Monaco offers an intricately-designed road that makes drivers truly earn their victory.
This renowned race will always be shadowed by Brazil's late Ayrton Senna, who won the race an unprecedented six times (five consecutive between '89 and '93).
Stat: 4,836...The number of gear changes undertaken by a car completing the full race distance.
23. Stanley Cup Finals
Image via jimrome.com
Fearless checks and green-clad fanatics. Icy punching bouts and electric goals. Playoff time in the sport of hockey is like no other, as it combines pure hatred and world-class talent to form quite the display of athletic greatness.
Teams with the least amount of black eyes often escape defeated. Enjoy digesting that one.
Stat: 3.0 million...Average audience of 2012 Kings-Devils Finals.
22. Indianapolis 500, United States
Image via jalopnik.com
500 miles of pure, undisturbed racing headlines this legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway race.
The Memorial Day weekend spectacle never discloses its attendance, but we know it scrapes the edges of 400,000.
Stat: $13.51 million...the 2011 payout.
21. The Open Championship, England and Scotland
Image via quarrygolf.ca
Held on the weekend of the third Friday in July, the Open Championship is not only the oldest of the four major championships, but it's also the only Major held outside of the United States.
Since its establishment in 1860, the Open has warmed golfing hearts around the world with its exotic feel.
Stat: 180,000...Spectators at the 2011 Open.
20. The Boston Marathon, United States
Image via endlessrunner.wordpress.com
From 18 participants in 1897 to 26,716 in 2012, the world's oldest annual marathon has seen its popularity sky-rocket toward greatness. Let's not forget the record 38,708 participants in 1996.
But the Boston Marathon has become a tradition in New England, always being held on the third Monday in April, or rather Patriots' Day.
For most it's a glorious, albeit crowded jog in the park. For others, a ferocious battle.
Stat: 2,181...Runners who needed medical treatment along the race.
19. Rugby World Cup
Image via fasttwitchblog.com
Similar to soccer's World Cup, Rugby's worldly competition occurs every four years and features a battle for Earth-wide supremacy.
But unlike its same-named counterpart, the Rugby World Cup offers crushing hits and pad-less warriors who feast on rival blood.
Ruthless, and beloved.
Stat: NZ$280 million (slightly over $225 million in U.S. dollars)...2011 Rugby World Cup ticket sales.
18. Daytona 500, United States
Image via totalfratmove.com
Some may prefer to call it the Super Bowl of Stock Racing, but either way the Daytona 500 remains the most important race in the world of NASCAR.
It is the final event of Speedweeks, occurring on the last Sunday in February, and has thrived since it's inception in 1959.
Stat: 135,000...approximate number of followers driver Brad Keslowski gained after tweeting a picture of Juan Pablo Montoya's crash this year.
17. BCS National Championship Game, United States
Image via keepingscore.blogs.time.com
As the Super Bowl of college football, the National Championship Game naturally garners the attention of an entire nation during its three hours of mayhem.
It's expected that the two highest-ranked clubs battle it out on the gridiron for collegiate supremacy, although there have been some controversial decisions. No. 3 Oklahoma over No. 1 USC in '03?
Students roar in support and elders clap with honor, it's an event that unites generations of fans.
Stat: 78,237...Tickets sold at the 2012 Game.
16. Ryder Cup
Image via leftcoastrebel.com
Perhaps the most established and beloved competition not involving prize money, the Ryder Cup occurs every two years and features teams from Europe and the United States competing for pure respect...and a hefty gold trophy.
The European team has won six out of the last eight Ryder Cups.
Stat: 55,000...breakfast rolls eaten at the 2010 Cup.
15. UEFA Champions League Final
Image via tkey.co.uk
Dominated by Spanish clubs since being founded in 1955, the UEFA Champions League has become the most viewed event worldwide during its brief existence.
Real Madrid's nine titles headlines a glorious tournament that continues to attract every worldwide set of eyes.
Stat: 178.7 million...amount of viewers for 2011 UEFA Champions League Final.
14. March Madness, United States
Image via anthonywindram.wordpress.com
For those who enjoy single-elimination thrillers, March Madness needs to headline the bucket list.
Created by former Ohio State coach Harold Olsen in 1939, the Big Dance features 68 collegiate teams battling for pure victory.
UCLA has dominated the tournament's history with 11 National titles, while Dick Vitale has shadowed it with such ferocious utterances like "Oh baby" and "Diaper Dandy." A colorful and always-enthusiastic showing.
Stat: $738,000,000...Amount CBS and Turner made off advertising during the 2011 tournament.
13. Tour De France, France
Image via 110pounds.com
Since 1903, this three-week, 2,000-mile trek has become the most popular of the three bicycle Grand Tours. With a grand finale in beautiful Paris.
A heavenly ending for the most visually delightful, yet physically demanding cycling race on Earth.
Stat: 12-15 million...Expected number of spectators.
12. The World Series, United States
Image via scholastic.com
Walk-off bombs and frigid seventh-inning stretches. What may sound terrible to some is a blessing to most, America's pastime that is.
162 games between the freshness of Spring, the sweaty days of Summer and the chilly breezes of Fall lead to a memorable October postseason.
The World Series is a culmination of national pride, in seven games.
Stat: 10.0...Rating of the 2011 World Series, 19 percent higher than Rangers-Giants 2010 series.
11. Cricket World Cup
Image via pologass.bloguez.com
Organized in England in 1975, this quadrennial tournament has become the pinnacle of cricket greatness.
A game once played only in the crevices of Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan and the West Indies, cricket is now witnessing a cultural transition.
Other countries are beginning to pick up the sticks.
Stat: 162 million...Viewers through the first 40 matches of the 2011 World Cup.
10. NBA Finals, United States
Image via blnz.com
82 games of hardwood beauty and a lengthy postseason leads to a seven-game series for basketball brilliance.
Many watch to either boo or berate the so-called King of basketball, LeBron James, while others simply love the festive nature of the championship series.
A traditional event.
Stat: 215 countries...Receiving broadcast, in a possible 47 languages.
9. Kentucky Derby, United States
Image via authorkjreed.com
To close out the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival, three-year-old thoroughbreds engage in the greatest two minutes in sports.
Run every consecutive year since 1875, this one-and-a-quarter miles of horse racing is the first leg of the Triple Crown.
But let's be honest, this event is far more about wine spritzers and hefty bets than watching graceful horses gallop about the Churchill Downs racetrack.
Stat: $165.2 million...Total amount bet in 2011.
8. Wimbledon, England
Image via londonhotels4u.com
The oldest and possibly most prestigious tennis tournament in the world has been held at the All England Club in Wimbledon, London since 1877.
It's the only Major still played on grass and features two weeks in late June and early July of pure racket-swatting greatness.
Intriguing traditions include a strict dress code and the eating of strawberries and cream. Class, class, class.
On the other hand, if sparkling wine statistics don't sum up the popularity of an event, what will?
Stat: 25,000...Bottles of champagne consumed.
7. Polo at Palermo, Argentina
Image via pololine.com
Referred to as the River Plate Polo Championship between 1893-1923, the Polo at Palermo takes place at the Cathedral of Polo, minutes from downtown Buenos Aires.
Dominated by the Argentinians, this graceful sport is perhaps just as fashionable as it is athletically elegant. A sight to behold.
Stat: 3,000+...Polo players in Argentina.
6. The Masters Tournament, United States
Image via golfwrx.com
Sparked by Clifford Roberts and golfing great Bobby Jones in 1934, the Masters remains the heart and soul of golf.
The first tournament of the year has seen greats like Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer grace its rich Augusta surface. Oh, and dare we forget the man, the legend Tiger Woods with his four victories.
They all want that illustrious green jacket.
Stat: 30,000-40,000...Attendance per round.
5. The Grand National, England
Image via catastrophicfindings.wordpress.com
Held at Aintree Racecourse each year since 1839, this wealthy race tests the will and closeness of both horse and jockey for just over four miles.
With horses jumping 30 fences, this race offers a breathtaking combination of speed and stability. A worldly treasure.
Few complete the course unscathed.
Stat: 600 million...Estimated worldwide audience.
4. The Super Bowl, United States
Image via blog.photoshelter.com
Three hours of controlled madness on the football field is pleasantly complemented by a quality array of often-hilarious ads that keeps us smiling during breaks.
Football's Big Game now seems just as focused on overpriced ads as it does on gridiron greatness. But that doesn't keep us from drooling over the annual possibilities, following always memorable playoff runs.
The quest for the Lombardi Trophy leads us to a constant munching.
Stat: 100 million pounds...Wings consumed during Super Bowl 2012.
3. The 24 Hours of Le Mans, France
Image via speedsportlife.com
Endurance and efficiency headline quite the mescalin mix of past and present racing.
Since its debut in 1923, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has featured old-school and modern-day vehicles racing against time and stability along the French countryside in perhaps the most strenuous car race known to man.
The Circuit de la Sarthe offers both closed public roads and permanent racetracks, and a breathtaking visage.
Stat: 240,000+...Spectators at this year's event.
2. The Olympic Games
Image via faithfictionfriends.blogspot.com
For roughly two weeks every two years (summer and winter Games alternating), the world's greatest athletes compete for worldwide respect.
Excluding the bribery scandals, boycotts and doping allegations, this is exactly what the Greek Gods had in mind. Pure athleticism.
From the United States hockey team upsetting the Soviet Union at the 1980 Miracle on Ice to wrestler Rulon Gardner winning over hearts at the '00 Games, the heart-throbbing greatness never ends.
Stat: 375...Doctors who will be at '12 London Games.
1. The FIFA World Cup
Image via fifa.com
For about one month every four years, most of the world's inhabitants stop everything they're doing to watch 32 qualifying countries battle it out for supremacy.
The flag-thrusting, fire-starting passion of the fans and the breathtaking foot skills shown on the pitch mesh to create the most beloved tournament in the world.
Stat: 6,161,000...Record number of viewers for the United States vs. Algeria match in 2010.