Wimbledon: Where Does It Rank Amongst the World's Best Sports Venues?
Sometimes, the "where" matters just as much as the "who."
With The Championships at Wimbledon set to begin this week with the qualifying matches, it seems only appropriate to examine the All England Club and measure it against its counterpart venues.
Many words can describe the location of the oldest tennis tournament in the world. Prestigious. Classy. Traditional. But is it the best?
Several factors come into play when comparing the most famous sporting venues in the world. The aesthetics, of course, play a role, as do the history of the location and its competitive significance. Being associated with notable names who reach the pinnacle of their sport's success doesn't hurt, either.
That being said, let's take a look at the seven best sporting venues in the world, and where Wimbledon places.
7. The Course of the Tour de France
Okay, this may not even qualify as a "venue," per se, but it needs recognition nevertheless.
Any competition that lasts three weeks is bound to draw attention to its surroundings. Part of the charm of the Tour de France (for those who still follow it, that is) is seeing the cyclists maneuver themselves around France and surrounding countries.
Being the most notable of bicycle races, the Tour de France brings a special aura to it, and that extends to the race course. Its winners share that as well, though certainly that has taken a hit with the drug scandals that have continued to plague the sport.
Nevertheless, the Tour is still one of the most respected and enduring world-wide events. That in itself sheds a special light on the environment in which it takes place.
6. Daytona International Speedway
Opened in 1959, the Daytona International Speedway plays host to the Daytona 500, NASCAR's most famous race, as well as to races in motocross and power boats.
Track designer Bill France gave birth to the since-replicated "tri-oval" shape, so the track resembles both an oval and a triangle. This particular shape allows for a more angular view for the race's spectators. (Innovation has to earn you bonus points.)
Located in Daytona Beach, Fl., the venue has beautiful surroundings when the weather is appropriate.
And, of course, Daytona has its share of history. Some of the best racecar drivers in the world have crossed the finish line in first place, including seven-time Daytona 500 winner Richard Petty, three-time winner Jeff Gordon and NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt.
Earnhardt, of course, will always be associated with the track, for it was here that he met his tragic fate on February 18, 2001, when he crashed during the last lap of the race. While this will always be the saddest of marks on the venue, the track in itself remains a historical tribute of sorts to Earnhardt's life and legacy.
5. Lambeau Field
Green Bay, WI is about as different as one can get from Daytona Beach, but that doesn't detract from the value of Lambeau. Home to one of the NFL's most historic franchises, the Green Bay Packers, Lambeau has seen its fair share of famous names and famous games.
Nicknamed "The Frozen Tundra," Lambeau Field can present difficult playing conditions for its competitors, but it's that kind of circumstance that adds legend to the players and field alike. This has also granted a significant home-field advantage to the Packers, who are a remarkable 13-3 at home in the postseason during their illustrious history.
Of course, one cannot mention Lambeau Field without bringing up the "Lambeau Leap," possibly the most notable celebration associated with any particular sports venue.
4. Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field has almost enough quirks to make one forget that its home team has gone more than a century without winning the World Series.
("Almost" being the key word.)
From the ivy-covered walls to the rooftop apartment view across the street to the celebrity renditions of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," Wrigley Field boasts of a character that few other venues can.
One can add to that list the fact that the Cubs didn't play any home day games until 1988 (when the stadium was finally equipped with lights) and that Wrigley is one of two ballparks left (the other being Fenway Park) to still use a hand-turned scoreboard. Wrigley features an old-school charm emblematic of one of baseball's oldest and most historic franchises.
"The Friendly Confines" is not just a baseball stadium; it's a Chicago landmark. It's the site every fan wants to visit at least once during his or her lifetime.
3. Madison Square Garden
You know a venue is pretty important when its nickname is "The World's Most Famous Arena."
The New York City landmark, home to the New York Knicks and New York Rangers, is the second-oldest and oldest arena in the NBA and NHL, respectively.
It is much more versatile than that, however. MSG has hosted countless other events, such as concerts, the Grammy Awards, circus shows and boxing matches—including the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight.
The Garden is probably most strongly associated with the Knicks, especially after they won their first NBA title in 1970. Dubbed "The Mecca of Basketball," Madison Square Garden is often a source of excitement for visiting players, who rarely experience that kind of vigor even in their home venues.
MSG has already been renovated once, in 1991, and will begin undergoing a second transformation in the coming year. You have to respect a place that continually looks to improve.
2. Wimbledon (All England Club)
Home to what many consider the most prestigious of the four Grand Slam tennis events, the All England Club has hosted Wimbledon since 1877.
This venue is probably richer with tradition than anywhere else. From the all-white dress code to the eating of strawberries and cream to the royal patronage, Wimbledon boasts some of the most recognizable customs of any sporting event.
Wimbledon is the only remaining major tournament that is played on grass. It is home to some of the most notable champions in tennis history, such as Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Martina Navratilova.
There is only one venue more associated with its sport than Wimbledon, only one tournament that truly stands alone. That venue is...
1. Augusta National Golf Club
Only golf can be truly defined by one tournament and, by extension, one venue. The Masters and Augusta are where every golfer hopes to enjoy his sweetest success.
The course itself is a picture of beauty, between the luscious green grass and several other notable natural features—The "Big Oak Tree" and Rae's Creek among them. Even viewing the landscape on television makes golfers and non-golfers alike long to be on the green.
Speaking of green, one would be remiss without mentioning the iconic green jacket that every Masters Champion and new member of Augusta National receives upon his victory. Easily the most famous wardrobe element in all of sports, the green jacket is as coveted as any championship trophy.
Agree, disagree, or want to offer an opinion on this list? Discuss in the comments section below!
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