On an international tour (like one through EF), you’re exposed to new cultures and experiences. One experience that everyone can relate to regardless of nationality is sports. Sports can create connections between people and even spark comradery between complete strangers. So what are the top international sports events? We compiled a list of our favorites.
Here is a list of our 20 favorite international sports events:
1. FIFA World Cup: The most prestigious international competition of the world’s most popular sport, the soccer World Cup is by far the biggest international sports event. Held every four years, no competition stirs national pride around the world the way the World Cup does. The only knock on the World Cup is the puny size of the coveted World Cup trophy, which stands at a little over a foot tall. The next World Cup will be held in Qatar in 2022.
2. Summer Olympics: The origins of the Summer Olympic Games date back to the Ancient Olympic Games in 776 B.C. The modern Olympics, which began again in Athens in 1896, have grown into a full-blown international spectacle. Next year’s historic Olympics will take place in Tokyo.
3. Cricket World Cup: Cricket is the world’s second most popular sport—by one estimate, 3 billion people around the world watch or play cricket (just not in the United States). The Cricket World Cup is the premier international cricket competition, contested every four years. The next Cricket World Cup will be held in India in 2021.
4. Rugby World Cup: One of the largest sporting competitions in the world, the Rugby World Cup, pits the top national rugby union teams against one another every four years. France will play host to the next Rugby World Cup in 2023.
5. Winter Olympics: First held in Chamonix, France, in 1924, the Winter Games have less history—and less participation—than their summer counterpart. About 2,900 athletes from 92 nations competed at the 2018 Games in South Korea. The next Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing in 2022.
6. Wimbledon: The grand dame of Grand Slams, Wimbledon is the oldest tennis championship in the world. Known for its elegant traditions and strict etiquette, Wimbledon also is where legends are born. Champions such as Rod Laver, Björn Borg, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer all ruled Wimbledon’s grass courts.
7. Tour de France: The world’s most famous bicycle race dates back to 1903. The crown jewel of the cycling circuit, the Tour de France winds its way more than 2,200 miles across France (and into neighboring countries), culminating in grand fashion down the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
Did you know that EF has a professional cycling team that competes in the Tour de France?
8. British Open: The oldest of golf’s major championships, the British Open, is contested on the famed links courses of Scotland and England, including St. Andrews, known as the “Home of Golf.” The British Open, which was first held in 1860, tees off annually the third weekend in July.
9. IAAF World Championships: The World Championships are the premier track and field competition after the Summer Olympics. The 2019 World Championships in Qatar drew nearly 1,800 athletes from 206 countries to compete in 49 events. The World Championships will be held next summer in Eugene, Oregon.
10. Monaco Grand Prix: Considered “the jewel of the Formula One crown,” the Monaco Grand Prix is the most glamorous automobile race in the world. First held in 1929, the race winds its way through the city streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine.
11. UEFA European Football Championship: The European championship is arguably the second biggest soccer tournament behind the World Cup, pitting the national teams from around Europe in competition every four years. Portugal beat France to win Euro 2016.
12. FIBA World Championship: A sport with uniquely American roots, basketball is increasingly becoming a global game. The world’s biggest basketball tournament has been held every four years since 1950. The 2023 World Championship will be held in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia.
13. French Open: The second of tennis’ Grand Slam events, the French Open in Paris is known for its distinctive clay courts, which sometimes prove difficult for the game’s best players, such as Pete Sampras, who has never won at Roland Garros.
14. Ice Hockey World Championship: The top international hockey tournament dates back to the European Championship, which began in 1910. The championship, which includes at least 40 national teams competing in three divisions, is much more popular in Europe because it conflicts with the NHL playoffs in North America.
15. Palio di Siena: As much pageant as competition, the Palio is a bareback horse race around Siena’s Piazza del Campo. The horses and riders represent each of the city’s contrade, or neighborhoods. Held twice annually (on July 2 and August 16), the modern races’ origins date back to about 1650.
16. 24 Hours of Le Mans: The king of high-speed endurance races, the 24 Hours of Le Mans (also known as the Grand Prix of Endurance) has been held annually since 1923 in Le Mans, France. First intended to showcase reliable sports cars, the race forces teams of drivers to navigate closed public roads while fighting fatigue.
17. World Curling Championships: The preeminent curling competition is held every year in different host cities for men, women and mixed teams. Originally known as the Scotch Cup, the men’s competition was first held in 1959 between Canada and Scotland. The women’s competition started in 1979, and the mixed tournament began in 2008.
18. FIFA Women’s World Cup: The most important women’s soccer tournament was first contested in 1991. The 1999 World Cup final—famously won by Brandi Chastain for the United States—drew more than 90,000 fans to the Rose Bowl, setting a world record for attendance at a women’s sporting event. The next World Cup will be held in Australia and New Zealand in 2023.
19. Volvo Ocean Race: We chose this quadrennial global yacht race for two reasons—one, it goes around the world, and two, an EF-sponsored yacht, EF Language, won the race in 1998, when it was known as the Whitbread Round the World Race. The 2022-2023 race starts in Alicante, Spain.
20. America’s Cup: Also known as Auld Mug, the America’s Cup is a sailing yacht competition. The cup was first awarded in 1851. The next event will be held in Auckland, New Zealand in 2021.
Honorable mentions for best international sports events: Australian Open (tennis), Calgary Stampede (rodeo), Giro d’Italia (cycling), Pan-American Games (athletics), Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (horse racing), Ryder Cup (golf), World Baseball Classic, Women’s British Open (golf), World University Games (athletics).
International sports are entertaining to watch, but it’s even more fun to experience them in person. Immerse yourself in another culture on an international tour.