The World's Most Popular Sporting Events

Each year there are hundreds of great major sporting events held around the world, as you can see on our extensive list of world sporting events. It is very clear that soccer is the most popular sport, but which sporting event is the most popular? The FIFA World Cup is possibly the most popular event on the world sports calendar, and for multi-sport events the Olympic Games. If you have not seen any of these sports live, you should put them on your sporting bucket list.

Defining The Most Popular

To determine what is the world's most sport sporting event, and rank the others, we just need to know how many people watch each one. You can look at the crowd sizes, but that would be limited by the size of the stadiums. Also, events held over more than one day can accumulate large total crowd numbers. The methods used for measuring the viewer numbers can also vary, making comparisons between events difficult. Counting TV viewers sometimes estimate how many households a broadcast can reach, rather than how many people actually watched it. 

Measuring how many people watch each event is not the only possible measurement of popular. We could also look at tournament website visitors or Google search traffic to get another metric of popularity. As you can see, finding out the most popular sporting event is not simple at all. We will try and decipher the information available to create a meaningful list of the worlds most popular sports.

What is a major sporting event?

I have listed many of the major world sporting events. Some of these are multi-sport events, such as the Summer and Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games, which can attract fans from a range of sports, while others are major events for specific sports such as the Football, Rugby and Cricket World Cups. When comparing these events, it makes sense to exclude competitions which run over a long period of time, such as the Premier League, Champions League, NFL championships.

the FIFA world cupthe FIFA world cup is top of many people's list

Most Popular Sporting Events Lists

There are a lot of conflicting suggestions for the world's most popular sports. We have come across quite a few lists of popular sporting events, though not many present actual figures. No two lists are the same, a large number of different events are included. The FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games are almost universally listed as the two most popular sporting events, which is hard to argue with, but the other sporting events on the lists may be harder to choose, as people around the world have different sporting interests and different criteria are used.

As the top two major sporting events are settled, the race for third is interesting. At some stage or another, many others have staked a claim as the third most popular event in the world: Rugby World Cup, World Athletics Championships, Asian Games, the Champions League, the European Football Championship, the Paralympics, the Ryder Cup, the Super Bowl. They all can't be right.

Another interesting comparison could be to compare the popularity of single parts of events, such as the world cup final, the Olympics 100m sprint, the super bowl, Wimbledon men's singles final. This will filter out events that last many days or months, multiple matches and events comprising many sports. Which event would top such a list? Probably still the FIFA World Cup final.

Some of these events are held only every four years, so the interest and build up to the event can be much greater than events held every year. A comparison of just annual sporting events, such as the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, the tennis and golf majors, would also be a worthwhile exercise.

Popular Events Lists

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Lists Extra

Football/Soccer is clearly the world's most popular sport, and has the most popular athletes, but which sport has the fittest players (but not necessarily the greatest athlete). These players do not always earn the most. The best of the best have made it to our 7 Sporting Wonders Lists.

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