Five Must-See Major Sporting Events in the World

The closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Maracana. Image courtesy of Fernando Frazao/Agência Brasil

 

Traveling to a major sporting event is more than just a show of support to your country or favourite athlete. It is an acquiescence to our deep-seated tribalistic urges; it is our way of honouring the supreme feats of athleticism of our fellow humans; it is a chance to become part of history. The passionate crowd, beautiful locales (most of the time, anyway) and magical atmosphere will all come together to create an experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

So what are the five must-see major sporting events on the planet that you simply cannot afford to miss?

5. Tour de France

Without doubt, Tour de France is the single most gruelling sporting event in the world. Cyclists travel over two thousand miles across France (as well as the Netherlands, Belgium and occasionally, other neighbouring countries) through the countryside, city streets and even suffocating ranges of the Pyrenees in barely three weeks. The stamina, endurance and mental power required to complete the race – never mind win it – is astonishing; cyclists regularly collapse at the end of every stage. Attempts at cheating go beyond simple drugs – cheaters literally get oxygen-rich blood transfusions between stages!

Established in 1903, the race draws over 12 million spectators along its circuitous route. Each spectator is estimated to travel an average of 130km over six hours to watch the pelotons of superhuman riders. In 2014, the race drew a worldwide television audience of 3.5 billion viewers from 188 nations over 22 days. It has to be said though – the decade-long blood doping scandal has greatly tarnished the reputation of the race and the sport.

Bradley Wiggins (in yellow) leading the 98.5-mile 15th stage (Samatan to Pau) of the 2012 Tour de France. Image courtesy of Robert King
Robert King

4. Wimbledon

Wimbledon is steeped in rich tradition and history. It is the oldest, greatest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. The tournament has been held continuously at the iconic All England Club in the Wimbledon district in southwest London since its inception in 1877 – with the exception of two interruptions during WW1 and WW2.

The club actually has a variety of court types. However, the tournament only uses its grass courts – making it the only Grand Slam out of the four to do so. The club, which counts HRH Queen Elizabeth II as its patron, is also the originator of the modern game of lawn tennis, courtesy of its creator, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield.

For two weeks every summer, the entire district is invaded by an army of fashionable tourists, old-money and aristocratic families, the press corps, and hundreds of players seeking a shot at immortality – people travel from all over the world to witness that moment of immortality.

Serbian Novak Djokovic is in ecstasy after winning the semi-final of the 2011 Wimbledon. He would go on to lift the trophy after defeating Spaniard Rafael Nadal in the final. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Foundation
Wikipedia Foundation

3. Super Bowl

In terms of off-game and pre-match spectacle, nothing can top the Super Bowl. Now entering its 53rd edition (scheduled for 2 February, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida), Super Bowl has transcended the sport and grown to become an intrinsic part of American culture. While the raw strength and tactics of the game itself is a sight to behold – the glitz, pageantry and music surrounding the event elevates it into another level completely.

The Super Bowl even creates a micro-economy of its own, from sponsorships to ad buys and merchandise sales. It draws an insanely high a hundred plus million TV viewership, almost three times more than anything else ever shown on TV.

2. The Olympic Games

The Olympic Games is the foremost athletic competition in the world. The event draws the participation of thousands of athletes from every country, autonomous regions and territories. To many athletes, it is the focal point of their entire lives – the culmination of the training and sacrifices they’ve had to make in pursuit of the Olympic gold.

The concept of the Olympics actually originated from ancient Greece, where athletes from city-states compete with one another to gain bragging rights and favour of the almighty Zeus.

The quadrennial event was last held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016, and the next edition will be in Tokyo, Japan in 2020. To get an idea of the sheer size of the event, the Rio Olympics welcomed more than 11,000 athletes from 205 countries into the Olympic Village; 125,000 hours’ worth of footage, over 14 years’ worth, was broadcasted in 220 countries to a combined audience of 3.6 billion; $6.2 billion was injected into the Brazilian’s economy. No other sporting event comes even remotely close to these staggering numbers.

1. FIFA World Cup

Every four years, 32 countries compete to be crowned as the champion of the planet’s most popular sport – football. An explosion of flags, painted faces and singing will envelop the landscape of the host cities during the month-long competition. Rivalries are forgotten (largely), friendships are made, tears are shed – such is the power of the World Cup.

Emotionally, the World Cup has no peers in the sporting world – the joy, exultation, sobbing, anger and a myriad of other emotions are par for the course. The sight of grown men sobbing uncontrollably in the streets following host Brazil’s 1-7 semi-final defeat to Germany in 2014 will remain as one of the most enduring memories of the year. The 1.12 billion-plus worldwide audience for the final between champions France and Croatia is the biggest in history for a one-off match.

If you had to choose only one major sporting event to go to in your life, it really has to be the World Cup – the experience will blow you away.

 

The 10 Most Haunted Places in Britain

Fancy meeeting a headless horseman on the next All Hallows Eve? Then head on over to Minsden Chapel in Hertfordshire

 

Why do some of us enjoy ghost stories, horror movies and haunted houses? It’s a simple matter of chemistry. Fear is a biological survival mechanism. When we overcome fear, the brain releases several chemicals, such as dopamine, endorphins and serotonin, to ‘celebrate’ the achievement, which gives us a happy, and at times, euphoric feeling. Seeing as we’re all about pleasing our readers, check out our list of the ten most haunted locations in Britain that will absolutely kick your dopamine levels into overdrive!

1. Minsden Chapel, Hitchin, England

Visitors to Minsden Chapel, a desolate-looking ruins on the hills of south Chapelfoot, has reported sightings of disembodied riders, ghostly apparitions, a nun and giggling bunch of small children – all staple themes of modern horror movies. Little is known of the early history of the chapel, but it was mentioned in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book of 1806. According to the book, the chapel housed a priest, eight villagers, six slaves and two cottagers. There were several other records of Minsden between the 14th and 17th centuries, mostly concerning religious service held there.

Local legends claim that supernatural sightings tend to occur during the night of All Hallows Eve, so the chapel, which is only accessible by foot, tends to attract quite a few paranormal investigators and the curious sort on the day.

2. Hellfire Caves, Buckinghamshire, England

The tale began in 1748 when Sir Francis Dashwood, the 11th Baron le Despencer and former Chancellor of the Exchequer, hired labourers to carve through the soft chalk stones on a cliff face near West Wycombe village. The quarter-mile deep cavern was meant to serve as the headquarters of a gentlemen’s guild called Hellfire Club, which would go on to earn a notorious reputation. The men’s only club was abandoned a few decades later – but apparently, something else moved in – something that can cause temperatures to drop, growl menacingly and even throw pebbles at explorers. One legend has it that Hellfire Caves is haunted by the ghost of a young barmaid named Sukie who was the victim of a wedding prank gone wrong.

3. Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire, England

If you fancy getting a slap on the head, seeing unexplainable shadows and experiencing a general sense of discomfort, Samlesbury Hall might just be worth a visit. Built in 1325 by a member of the local gentry, the manor has proved to be a magnet for professional ghost hunters, including ghost-hunter Richard Felix and Most Haunted, the TV series shown on Sky Living in the early noughties. The spirits and apparitions though appear to be rather camera-shy!

4. Hampton Court Palace, Richmond upon Thames, England

The former royal palace, which was gifted by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to King Henry VIII, has a crowded cast of phantoms, including the Grey Lady, the Screaming Queen and a few skeletal apparitions. The Tudor palace attracted fresh controversy in 2015 when a tour guide claimed to have captured images of the Screaming Queen, who is reputed to be Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife. She was sentenced to death in 1541 for adultery and treason.

5. Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland

Originally built to serve as a conventional Victorian cemetery, the Glasgow Necropolis is increasingly seen as a Gaelic version of the Egyptian City of the Dead – only significantly smaller, with less dead people and no mummies. However, the phantoms here have been accused of creating instantaneous mists and whispering in darkened corners. It doesn’t sound terribly frightening from the comfort of your home, but mists and disembodied voices tend to be more effective when you’re stuck in the company of hundreds of cemeteries and tombs.

It takes a brave soul to wander around the Victorian gothic garden of Glasgow Necropolis at night
It takes a brave soul to wander around the Victorian gothic garden of Glasgow Necropolis at night

6. Berry Pomeroy Castle, Devon, England

Berry Pomeroy Castle holds the honour of being the most haunted castle in the United Kingdom. Among the many phantoms one can expect to stumble across here, two, in particular, stand out – the White Lady, said to be the ghost of Margaret Pomeroy, the Blue Lady, reputedly an incestuous rape victim, and the bastard child Isabella, who sometimes follows visitors home. That hasn’t stopped thousands from visiting the Grade 1 listed castle every year though.

7. Woodchester Mansion, Gloucestershire, England

The crumbling, Gothic-inspired castle has it all – a headless horseman, a mysterious Tall Man at the Chapel and a poltergeist dwelling in the cellar – truly chilling. Not for the faint of heart. In October 2005, a team of paranormal investigators from the Severnside Centre for Fortean Research allegedly managed to record a hooded apparition on video. In case you’re itching for a taste of the supernatural, there are overnight ghost tours to the castle which you can book.

8. Ancient Ram Inn, Gloucestershire

The most haunted house in the United Kingdom used to be the site of numerous despicable acts, including child sacrifice, black magic rituals and witchcraft. It’s unsurprising then that the Ancient Ram Inn has allegedly a large cast of noisy and mischievous phantoms and apparitions. Be warned though – a previous owner of the Grade II listed pub claimed that he was once dragged across a room there by evil spirits.

9. Skirrid Mountain Inn, Abergavenny, Wales

The ominous-looking Skirrid Mountain Inn has a rather contentious relationship with historians. Many have dismissed claims that the inn once served as a Court of Law during the Norman Conquest. Claims that it was used as a staging point for Owain Glyndŵr’s rebel army in the 15th century have also been challenged. Let’s not even mention the local legend of Skirrid Mountain, which overlooks the inn, being crushed by either God or the devil following the crucifixion of Christ. What we can tell you is, if you pass by the place at night, you might hear footsteps, whispered voices and even spine-tingling laughter!

10. Tower of London, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, England

This is arguably the most popular paranormal site in all of Britain. From the ghost of Henry VI to dark hounds and floating apparitions, the Tower of London will make even the bravest souls falter in the darkness of the night. Keep an eye out for the ghost of the Countess of Salisbury and the headless apparition of Anne Boleyn – they apparently like to re-enact their gruesome deaths

 

World’s Top Tourist Attractions

The Musee Du Louvre in Paris, France, is the most popular museum in the world.

 

In 2018, the global tourism industry recorded over 1.4 billion people gallivanting across the four corners of the globe. Where do they go? Which attractions hold the greatest appeal for tourists? While we know that France, Spain, China, and Italy are four of the five top international tourist destination countries, we are also aware that domestic tourism accounts for a significant portion of the $8.8 trillion generated by the industry as a whole. In fact, in the United States, its well-developed domestic tourism sector is actually three times larger than inbound international tourism, which explains why American attractions dominate our list below –even if the country is ranked third behind France and Spain in inbound traffic.

One thing is clear though – there is no common denominator behind the world’s top ten tourist attractions – every one of them has their own unique appeal.

Note: Our list is limited to specific attractions, instead of boroughs, areas, cities or transport hubs. For instance, our list excludes Times Square in New York and Union Station in D.C. despite the combined 80-million plus visitors there annually. In addition, we have excluded several destinations that are frequently cited elsewhere on the web due to a lack of credible sources. We have also excluded Niagara Falls from our list as cited visitation figure fluctuates wildly, and the park has no existing traffic analysis system.

10. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France | Annual Visitors: 7 million

Built in 1889, the Eiffel Tower is arguably the most recognized landmark in the world, but it just barely squeaks into the list ahead of the British Museum, which attracts approximately 6.9 million visitors annually. The 1,063 feet wrought-iron structure has an official job as a radio tower. In its spare time, it serves as an observation tower that offers a breath taking, panoramic view of Paris. It also moonlights as a proposal site for couples – so please don’t be alarmed if you see men suddenly dropping down on their knees – sometimes in front of other men – everywhere you turn.

9. Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, | Annual Visitors: 7.3 million

Home to a massive collection of over 130 million specimens of man-made artefacts, flora, fauna, the natural world, and extra-terrestrial debris, the National Museum of Natural History is arguably our greatest treasure trove for future generations. Managed by the Smithsonian Institution and its army of scientists, it is the third most visited museum in the world.

8. Taj Mahal, Agra, India | Annual Visitors: 8 million

The architectural beauty of the Taj Mahal mausoleum can only be overshadowed by the love story behind it. The death of Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, sent the latter into a spiral of depression culminating in the building of this wondrous marble structure of minarets and domes with precise geometric patterns which nearly bankrupted the nation.

 Constructed using ivory-white marble, the Taj Mahal is a crash course in Mughal architecture. The maosoleum is   also the eighth most popular tourist destination in the world.
Constructed using ivory-white marble, the Taj Mahal is a crash course in Mughal architecture. The maosoleum is also the eighth most popular tourist destination in the world.

7. Musee Du Louvre, Paris, France | Annual Visitors: 9.7 million

The Louvre, the most visited museum in the world, offers an intimate glimpse of the collective soul of humanity. It houses some of the greatest works of art in history under its roof. Spread across its eight departments are 35,000 pieces of art and 380,000 artefacts, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo statue and Caravaggio’s Death of the Virgin.

6. Great Wall of China, Huairou, China | Annual Visitors: 10 million

The only man-made structure visible from space, the 5,500-mile-long Great Wall of China is one of mankind’s greatest achievements. Construction for the wall, which stretches across 11 provinces, began in 771BC under the command of Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor. It was meant to protect frontier population centres from incursions by rampaging nomads from the Eurasian Steppe.

5. Sacre-Coeur Basilica, Paris, France | Annual Visitors: 11 million

Sacre Coeur Basilica (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) is a Catholic church that is viewed by some as a physical manifestation of France’s conscience. Its history is intertwined with the country’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the French Revolution and the perceived moral decay of the late 19th century France. The Romanesque and Byzantine-inspired basilica’s two most prominent features are the bronze equestrian statues of France’s two most popular saints, Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis IX.

Sacré-Cœur Basilica, or Basilica of the Sacred Heart, is the second most popular tourist attraction in France. Sacré-Cœur Basilica, or Basilica of the Sacred Heart, is the second most popular tourist attraction in France.

 

4. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France | Annual Visitors: 13 million

Notre Dame was quite possibly the most famous and beautiful cathedral in the world, until the recent devastating fire which primarily destroyed its lead roof and oak frame. The Gothic-inspired Catholic cathedral is built on the islet of Île de la Cite, the same site of long-forgotten ancient Celtic and Roman temples. The beautiful gargoyles, flying buttresses and wall sculptures (do not miss the gallery of 28 Judean Kings) of Notre Dame give it an imposing, fortress-like look that will stay in the minds of visitors long after they are gone. Tourist numbers will likely temporarily fall while repairs are being made.

3. Forbidden City, Beijing, China | Annual Visitors: 14 million

The 7.5 million square feet former imperial palace is made up of 980 buildings inside its 26-foot tall city walls. Its halls are steeped in Chinese lore, its writings and artefacts a trove of historical information, and its beauty still dazzles after all these centuries.

2. Disneyworld’s Magic Kingdom Park, Florida, U.S.  | Annual Visitors: 19.3 million

Disney’s collection of parks* around the world would have completely dominated our list, so we had to limit their inclusion to only one – the Magic Kingdom Park in Orland, the most visited among its parks. However, for the record, Disney’s parks in North America, Europe and Asia collectively drew in a staggering total of 137 million visitors in 2014!

* Epcot (11.45m), Disneyland Hong Kong (7.5m), Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Florida (10.42m), Disney Hollywood Studios, Florida (10.3m), Disneyland California Adventure Park (8.77m), Disneyland Park, France (11.2m), Disneyland Paris (9.9m), Tokyo Disney Sea (14.1m), Tokyo Disneyland (17.3m) and Disneyland Park, Anaheim (16.77m).

1. Central Park, New York, United States | Annual Visitors: 40 million

This giant green enclave inside Manhattan offers a dazzling array of natural and man-made attractions that will take days to experience properly. From beautiful forests and pastoral landscapes to gorgeous lakes and ancient bedrocks, Central Park is more than just a hiking or cycling trail.

 

Women in Game of Thrones: Victim or Victor?

Enter the female Game of Thrones characters; forgers of nations and victims of abuse, who periodically challenge perceptions of femininity and societal norms. Originating from a range of social backgrounds; the characters are typically portrayed as having complex personalities fashioned from their varied experiences. Considering that the warring kingdoms in which they live, are filled with individuals keeping sordid agendas (a fair few of them being women themselves); are the women in Game of Thrones: Victim or Victor? 

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The Dilemma of Heathrow’s Third Runway

The airport expansion and the dilemma of Heathrow's third runway has been going on ever since the Roskill Commission was set up in 1968 to look into a potential third airport for London. 48 years on, following years and years of indecision, the current government has finally made a decision. They have boldly approved a third runway at Heathrow Airport. A decision which was likely influenced by Sir Howard Davies, who along with other members of the Airports Commission in 2015, collectively agreed that the best solution was to add a third runway to the north-west of Heathrow’s current pair. 

Whilst the Government has finally set its stance on its preferred option, next year there will be a statutory public consultation followed by a final decision being put to MP’s. 

 

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House Buying: What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Despite each romance fundamentally unique; society is usually quick to judge those deemed less conventional when it comes down to house buying with your partner before marriage. Shared experiences for example, has always been seen, by traditionalists, as the breezeblocks of marriage. And living together, post-marriage, as a sign of commitment and love.

So if you're currently house buying: What's love go to do with it? 

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The Alternative Bucket List

Swimming with dolphins, or driving a super-car around a track makes for thrilling memories. The pictures are great, and the buzz from having experienced such an activity is undeniably fantastic. However, when money dries up and we head back to our 9-5 mundane office jobs, we are sometimes left wondering what is there to drive us between the previous and the next bucket-list style of activity. We become a duller form of ourselves, leaving our brains in a sluggish slumber. Whilst bucket-list activities are fantastic and a must-try; they often require substantial sums of money (for what they are), and lack any deeper meaning.

 

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So you want to be an Olympic Athlete?

 There are few thrills in this world that rival the experience of standing on an Olympic podium, in front of a worldwide audience, your family and friends, to receive your hard-earned medal. However, this heavy cocktail of pride, elation and partial disbelief (that your dedication and training paid off), doesn’t come easy. It’s not just the years amassed by athletes in their sport of choice that makes them the best in their field; it’s a whole lifestyle choice.

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