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What is the Sport Capital of the World?

A quick google search provides one very clear answer for ‘Sport Capital of the world’ as the top 5 search results all point to one place: Melbourne, Australia.


Melbourne’s sporting credentials include the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics, Grand Slam tennis and Formula One Grand Prix. Granted, this is an okay list, but does this list really justify the, rather bold claim to ‘Sport Capital of the World’?

The Criteria and the Nominations

If there were an official title to give away, what would be the criteria you would measure the nominees against? The Sport Capital of the World should have:

My nominations for the title are (in alphabetical order):

Nominee 1: London, United Kingdom – 12,875,000

London will be host to one of the world’s biggest sport events in 2012; the Summer Olympics. This will make London the first city in the world to host the Summer Olympics three times (1908, 1948 & 2012). In addition the modern game of soccer, the world’s biggest sport, was first codified in 1863 in London and subsequently spread worldwide.

London’s legendary Wembley Stadium provided the venue for the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final, won by England. The new Wembley Stadium will host the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final. The Premier League currently features five London clubs: Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Fulham and West Ham United. There are also eight London clubs in the fully professional Football League.

London boasts two legendary test cricket grounds: Lord’s and The Oval and the English national rugby stadium, arguably the most legendary stadium in global rugby, is (in) Twickenham. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, home of the Wimbledon Championships, is in Wimbledon in south London. Every April since 1981, London has hosted one of the world’s largest mass-participation marathons, the London Marathon.[4] The, London Triathlon, the largest triathlon event in the world, also takes place annually. The River Thames is the venue for the world’s most famous Boat Race, held between Oxford and Cambridge universities every year.

Famous athletes from London include; Sebastian Coe, David Beckham and Bobby Moore

Nominee 2: New York City, USA – 19,750,000

The New York City metropolitan area has nine teams in the four major North American professional sports leagues, each of which also has its headquarters in the city; the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB. Its sport legacy boasts the New York Yankees, Mets, Knicks, Giants, Jets, Rangers, Islanders, New Jersey Nets (soon to be in Brooklyn!), New Jersey Devils and the MLS New York Red Bulls. The area was also home to the New York Cosmos, arguably the most popular American soccer team ever. In 2014, the New Meadowlands Stadium will host Super Bowl XLVIII.

The U.S. Open is the fourth and final event of the Grand Slam tennis tournaments and is held annually in late summer at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. The ING New York City Marathon is one of the largest marathons in the world.

Both Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden are amongst the most legendary sports venues in history. Iconic athletes who made their name in the Big Apple include; Lou Gehrig, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Julius Erving and Mike Tyson.

Nominee 3: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 10,556,000

Rio de Janeiro will host the two biggest events in global sports this decade. In 2014 it will host the Final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Only two years later, Rio de Janeiro will be the centre of the international sports world once again as it hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics!

Rio of course has many professional football clubs, amongst which “Flamengo” and “Fluminense”, protagonists of one of the most high profiled grudge matches in the World. Also from Rio are “Vasco da Gamma” and “Botafogo”. All four teams have won the national football championship and the “Copa Libertadores de America” (the main football championship in Latin America).

In addition Rio de Janeiro boasts one of the biggest and most legendary football stadiums in the world: the Maracana Stadium. It is here where some of football biggest stars like Pele, Garincha, Zico, Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Kaka have played.

Other notable sports events in Rio include the MotoGP Brazilian Grand Prix and the world Beach Volleyball finals. As part of its preparations to host the 2007 Pan American Games, the Estádio Olímpico João Havelange was build. It was named after Brazilian ex-FIFA president João Havelange.Finally the beaches, Copacabana and Ipanema are probably the most well-known, are excellent places to do all kinds of sports. They are very actively used, mainly for “fute volei” (volleyball without using your hands) or “frescobol” a type of beach tennis, but also for swimming, surfing and yachting. Well known athletes from Rio include; racecar driver Nelson Piquet, Ronaldo, Romário and beach volleyball legends Jackie Silva and Sandra Pires.

Ladies and Gentleman of the jury, may we have your votes please?!

Which city do YOU believe is most worthy of the title Sport Capital of the World, or … do you believe it should be Melbourne after all? Below you’ll find a very short and incomplete sports profile of each of the nominees. Please do feel free to provide additional background and elaborate on your vote.

Looking forward to your comments, input and …your votes!


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30 Responses to What is the Sport Capital of the World?

  1. shane_harmon January 26, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    For me, Google is right, the answer IS Melbourne!

    Besides the events listed earlier, Melbourne has held the Commonwealth Games (2006), FINA World Championship (2007) & will most likely host the Cricket World Cup Final (2015). As a past Olympics games host, it also deserves to be put on the same pedestal as future hosts such as Rio and London. Melbourne has been a subsequent bidder for Olympics, & would be more than a capable host. In fact I can’t think of any city around the world that would require such little infrastructural investment to host a future Olympic Games.

    In terms of sporting venues with ‘shrine-like status’, the Melbourne Cricket Ground is a match for any venue. It’s a true coliseum and holds 100,000 fans. I’ve taken a few major sporting event-seasoned fans to the MCG, and they have always been completely awed. In addition Melbourne boasts the 55,000 capacity Etihad Stadium (with retractable roof), Rod Laver Arena & the new rectangular stadium AAMI Park.

    It’s also important to discuss Australian Football League (AFL, or Aussie Rules) in the context of Melbourne & its place on the global sports stage. AFL is the NFL of Australia. It’s by far the biggest professional football code in the Australasian region, & if cities like NY can be considered global due to the presence of NFL and MLB teams, Melbourne’s rich AFL tapestry needs to be considered in the same context. While NY boasts 2 NFL and MLB teams, Melbourne hosts matches involving 10 (yes 10!!) of the 16 teams within the AFL.

    In fact I think that the truly GREAT sporting cities offer something different; a unique sporting experience that is indigenous to that city or country, & provides visiting sports fans a cultural as well as sporting experience.

    AFL has the 3rd highest avg crowds of any football code in the world behind only NFL and Bundesliga.

    But the single most important factor in my mind that makes Melbourne No.1 is its fans. They are sports obsessed. Each of the 10 AFL teams boats between 23,000 and 53,000 season pass holders. One on ten Melbournians has a season pass to an AFL team. 85,000 fans turned out to see the Boxing Day cricket test at the MCG between England and Australia. The Australian Open boast higher crowds than Wimbledon and Roland Garros. 600,000 fans will attend the event that is taking place at the moment. 300,000 fans will attend the Formula 1 Grand Prix in March, 3,000,000 fans attended an AFL match at the MCG in 2009. The biggest sporting event in Australia each year is the AFL Grand Final where 100,000 lucky soles will see the match. (For any sports fans ever creating a sporting bucket list, the AFL Grand Final is a must).

    I make these observations without any bias, having never lived there, AND being a Sydneysider, a more recent and extremely successful Olympic host (best ever in my opinion).

    I write this, the day before I fly to this great sports city to watch some cricket & attend the Australian Open singles finals. I’m pumped.

  2. Thomas_van_Schaik January 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    @shane_harmon Hi Shane,

    Appreciate your feedback and the (strong) case you make for Melbourne. Guess Google was making its case for a reason. Still not sure if I agree with you but will add the AFL Grand Final to my sporting bucket list. Enjoy the Australian Open! T.

  3. anthonyalsop January 26, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Have to agree with Shane…and Google.

    I definitely think your list is great, but no city you listed has under 10 million people. Melbourne has population of apx. 4 million, yet our football league has the been in the top 4 for worldwide attendance on average to a professional sporting league (4th now beind IPL, Shane)

    You truly have to visit our sporting precinct in a 1 mile radius we have 4 sporting stadiums with a combined attendance of 150,000 people and another 55,000 seat stadium 2 miles away. Added that to our Grand Slam Tennis, Grand Prix, Melbourne Cup (horse racing events) and you have 3 sporting events throughout the year that routinely will draw over 100,000 people to these events. While I could go on forever, the city obviously doesnt have world famous teams like Arsenal or the New York Yankees, you truly have to visit this city to understand and experience why we routinely voted the sporting capital of the world.

  4. ArasuG January 28, 2011 at 5:13 am #

    Aussie Cricketers are hugely popular!

  5. Thomas_van_Schaik January 30, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    @ArasuG Thanks ArasuG! Enjoy your input and thank you for reading this blog.

    Most succesful athletes in Rio, London & NY (anywhere really) also enjoy enormous popularity, does that justify Melbourne being the global capital of sport though?

  6. ArasuG January 31, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    @Thomas_van_Schaik @ArasuG

    Very true – Esp. NYY who enjoy enormous celebrity all over the world. However, I side with Melbourne not because it is the obvious choice but mostly it is the only reasonable choice left after you strike out others.
    NY is NOT known for Cricket or soccer which hurts them bad in Asia N Africa respectively.
    London, It comes a close second but then again, they havent won too many championships in any sport, have they?
    Rio is just not there yet! BRIC – remember?

    Back to Melbourne – MCG – Melbourne Cricket Ground is a great tradition. Plus, Recently, they are the Finalists of Asian Soccer Cup 2011.
    Aussies seem to play all the sports and truly participate in world series unlike NYY!

  7. Richorules June 27, 2012 at 12:10 am #

    Grand Slam: Australian Open 
    Home of the AFL 
    1 NRL team
    1 Super Rugby Team
    2 teams in the A-League 
    1 NBL Team (Basketball)
    1 ABL team (Baseball) 
    1956 Olympics
    Melbourne Cup (one of the worlds richest horse races in the world)
    Grand Prix
    2007 Fina World Championships
    2006 Commonwealth Games
    Boxing Day Cricket Test
    MCG 100,000 (AFL, Cricket, Athletics)
    Etihad Stadium 55,000(AFL, Soccer, Rugby, WWE, Cricket)
    AMMI Park 30,000 (Soccer, Rugby)
    Rod Laver Arena 15,000 (Tennis)
    Hisense Arena 11,000 (Basketball, Netball, Tennis)
    Margaret Court Arena 6,000 (Tennis) – & 7,500 by 2015
    State Netball and Hockey Centre 3,500 (Basketball, Netball, Hockey)
    Lakeside Stadium 14,000 (Athletics, Rugby, Soccer)
    Flemington Racecourse 120,000 (Horse Racing)

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  9. Ruben August 5, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    The MCG will fill its capacity of 100,000 at least 4 times a year for cricket and AFL. London would never have that for any sport over there. Plus there are more sports played in Australia, once you go to Melbourne you’ll understand, their newspapers have nothing but sport sport sport!

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  11. Johnny January 13, 2014 at 4:38 am #

    I honestly think it’s London.

    They have:

    Twickenham (home of rugby)
    Lords (home of cricket)
    The Oval
    London Marathon

    and then an enormous amount of rugby, soccer and cricket clubs, and other sporting codes.

  12. Emmcd2 January 22, 2014 at 11:45 pm #

    The royal melbourne golf course (west) had also been ranked in the top 10 golf courses in the world on numerous occasions

  13. Emmcd2 January 22, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

    Also Cadel Evans is a melbourne boy who went on to win the 2011 Tour de France

  14. Domster January 31, 2014 at 5:35 am #

    It’s obviously London.

    It’s the home of football, cricket, tennis and rugby, 4 of the most popular sports in the world. Appreciate that, it actually has stadiums and buildings that are the home of these sports. Lots of these sports were invented in Britain and spread with the influence of the Empire, so its natural that the nations capital is the home of sport. It’s the only City to host the Olympics three times, that kind of says it all.

    Just on a side note, look at the EPL being broadcast all over the world, there’s always 5 or 6 London teams in that comp, 5 or 6! It’s the biggest domestic sport league in the world!

    The fact Melbourne punches above its weight for its size is irrelevant.

  15. Liz April 15, 2014 at 8:36 pm #

    Domster has small man’s syndrome. Clearly the sporting capital is Melbourne.

  16. Ainsley April 30, 2014 at 10:26 pm #


    we have facilities for all these sports that fill out masses of crowds each year. Not only does Melbourne have the facilities we have the spirit. Being in Melbourne is such a unique experience and I don’t think any of you can comprehend how much our nation is sports mad.

    We have three sporting matches that STOP the nation.

    -melbourne cup
    -afl grand final
    – Australian open

    we are not belting above are weight we are holding our own and maintaing it!

    also we do have well known sporting athlete

    donald bradman
    leyton hewitt
    lauren jackson
    andrew bogut
    aaron scott

    to name a few

  17. Xavi May 9, 2014 at 8:14 am #

    According to the “Sports City Index” done in Dec 2013, London ranks 1st and Barcelona is 2nd, and Melbourne is 4th.

    To see why Barcelona is second, and could be first, check this 10 reasons:

    Xavi (from BCN)

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  28. smedley butler March 29, 2017 at 7:22 pm #

    nonsense. less desirable places to live that have large sports FAN followings because there is not enough to do where they live. that typical monkeylike inverse proportion of pride vs actual worth of whatever they are so proud of. a sports capital has the most citizenry regularly PARTICIPATING in sports, of any kind, and not just old team sports. somewhere like the southern california lifestyle that continues to be a model for all the worlds monkeys, where most locals play something, most likely many sports; water sports, snow sports, desert sport, track sports, auto/wheeled sports, field sports, gym sports, arena sports, and on and on. somewhere where outdoors and sport are a LIFESTYLE. not many places, if any at all, have the geographic diversity, weather, wealth, and engrained culture created by generations of californians, that allow unlimited play all year round like socal.


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