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28 Sporting Events You Must Experience Before Your Die

Tom Malone/Adventure Tribune
Sports are international. Each culture and civilization has its own forms of competition that take on a life of their own. Here are some of the world's most culturally significant and generally epic sporting events that the world has to offer.


We all dream of taking an adventure to experience a legendary sporting event. These events capture the competitive spirit and immerse travelers into an unforgettable part of any culture. Some epic events only occur once a year, while other must-see sports matches occur regularly as part of a unique cultural experience.

To travel to one of these legendary sporting events takes courage. Sometimes, you’re traveling deep into enemy territory, while other times, you may be the hometown favorite. Possibly, you might not know a thing about the sport, but you want to engage in a cultural adventure to broaden your horizons.

Whatever the case may be, here are 28 sporting events that you must attend before you die. These events are in no particular order, as the “epicness level” of each event depends on the individual.

1. El Clasico; Soccer - Spain
One of the most bitter rivalries in all of world soccer (and world sports overall), El Clasico pits FC Barcelona and Real Madrid against each other a few times per year. Each team boast plenty of Spanish league titles and Champions Cup victories, but no title victory is more important than this one. Tickets are hard to come by, but even spending time in Madrid or Barcelona during this game is an atmosphere you won’t forget.

2. Kentucky Derby; Horse Racing - Kentucky, U.S.A.
Experience the atmosphere that begins early in the Kentucky morning and builds all day long. The pageantry, suits, big hats, and wagering all culminate with one final two-minute horse race.

3. Summer Olympics; Multiple Sports - Country Changes
Every four years, the world’s best athletes gather together to compete in nearly every sport possible. Simply experiencing one Olympic event will allow you to witness some of the best competition in the world. The host country changes each time, so look forward to experiencing a new country if you plan to return.

4. Table Tennis Championships; Ping Pong - China
Check out the ridiculous quickness, power, and control possessed by the best table tennis players in the world. And, experience an integral part of the Chinese sports culture while you’re at it.

5. Winter X Games; Extreme Sports - U.S.A.
Who doesn’t want to visit some of the coolest mountain scenery in the Rockies and watch people do flips on skis and snowboards? Check out the gnarly runs through sick powder, and then experience the vibrant weekend atmosphere at nighttime.

6. Monaco Grand Prix; Formula One Racing - France
Dress up in your finest clothes and watch the illustrious race cars dart through Monte Carlo within the backdrop of the French Mediterranean Coast. Then, test your luck at Monte Carlo’s famous casinos.

7. Rose Bowl; College Football - Los Angeles, U.S.A.
“The Granddaddy of Them All” brings two of the country’s best college football teams together in one exciting game on New Year's’ Day in sunny Southern California. No matter who’s playing, the atmosphere will be electric and the stadium is always draped in history.

8. Easter Bullfights; Bullfighting - Spain
This brutal sport has its roots in southern Spain. Whether or not you can stomach the action, experiencing this traditional Spanish sport will give you a cultural experience that you won’t soon forget.

9. MLB Opening Day; Baseball - U.S.A.
Every Major League Baseball city essentially shuts down for the first home game of the season. Whether the team had a successful previous season, or if there’s plenty of room for improvement, MLB fans always look forward to the prospects that a new season can bring.

10. Australian vs. New Zealand Rugby; Rugby - Australia
Nothing brings the people of Oceania into more contention than the Australia vs. New Zealand rugby match. Experience intense rivalries, toughness, and bloody action; when it’s all said and done, experience a friendly, adventurous culture.

11. Sumo Wrestling; Sumo - Japan
See some of the largest humans in the world smash into each other with intense force as they try to push each other out of the circle; plus, you’ll get to involve yourself in Japan’s national sport while you’re at it.

12. Indian Cricket Match; Cricket - India
A remnant of British colonialism, the game of cricket has become the major sport of India. Even if you don’t know the rules, attend a game and watch people go crazy over each hit, sprint, and wicket. Be prepared for the long haul, though. Some cricket matches have been known to last for days.

13. Brazilian Club Soccer Game; Soccer - Brazil
Few cultures get more rowdy about their soccer than Brazilians. Check out a regular, day-to-day, Brazilian club soccer match and join the crowd (the home crowd). You won’t find a crowd more amped up than this anywhere in the world.

14. U.S. Track & Field Olympic Trials; Track & Field - Eugene, U.S.A.
Travel to the home of the Oregon Ducks in Eugene in June and you’ll catch any number of world-class track events. Visit during an Olympic year and watch the country’s best track athletes compete for a spot on the Olympic team. Come and find out why this place is hallowed as Tracktown, U.S.A.

15. March Madness Early Rounds; College Basketball - U.S.A.
March Madness brackets are full of upsets, which is why this event is so much fun even for those who don’t attend a game. Imagine being in the stands of your hometown stadium when a number 12 seed beat the storied 5 seed program. Then, imagine getting to watch another game after that! Immerse yourself in the madness and you’ll be coming back year after year.

16. Dragon Boat Festival; Boat Racing - China
The Dragon Boat festival has occurred in China for over 2,000 years. Come see tradition like nowhere else, and then catch a series of epic dragon boat races while enveloped in this ancient tradition.

17. Iron Bowl; College Football - Alabama, U.S.A.
Come experience one of the most storied rivalries in college football while immersing yourself into everything that is football in the South. This legendary matchup has all the potential to be a great game, but the atmosphere is what you’ll leave with.

18. World Cup of Sandboarding
Sandboarding - Peru
Located in the Peruvian desert, in a town called Huacachina, lies an oasis surrounded by massive sand dunes. Watch professional sandboarders ride these sand formations like snowboarders on a mountain while they jump, flip, spin, and shred.

19. World Taekwondo Championships; Taekwondo - South Korea
While visiting South Korea, you’ll journey to the home of Taekwondo, one the world’s most popular martial arts. It’s also the home of the sports’ world championships. Experiencing this event will give you access to intense one-on-one athleticism and a swift cultural lesson.

20. FIFA World Cup Game; Soccer - Country Changes
The world’s most popular sport (soccer) brings countries together to form the most-watched sporting event in the world: the World Cup. The early rounds of the Cup pit countries in an intense round of group play. Tickets are relatively easy to acquire for earlier rounds compared to the final few. The World Cup occurs every four years and, like the Olympics, the host country changes each time.

21. Tokyo Baseball Game; Baseball - Japan
Baseball is a popular major league sport in the United States, but it’s arguably more popular in Japan. Catch a game in downtown Tokyo while you embrace the crowds, neon lights, and skyscrapers that define the city.

22. NFL Playoff Game; Football - U.S.A.
Sure, going to the Super Bowl would be cool, but the pageantry and excitement seems to surround every but the actual game. Check out an NFL playoff game instead. Tickets are easier to come by, and you get to sit with a home crowd who actually cares about their home team moving onto the next round.

23. Dubai World Cup; Horse Racing - United Arab Emirates
Recently, Dubai has become a major hub for all things elaborate: the world’s tallest building, man-made islands in the shapes of palm trees, and an indoor ski resort in the middle of the desert. It should be no surprise that their horse races would be just as elaborate.

24. The Ancient Mayan Ball Game; Ulama - Mexico
Ulama was played by the ancient Mesoamerican people: Olmec, Aztec, Maya, etc. The objective was for a team to run the length of a soccer field and hit a rubber ball with your hips and feet into small stone rings about 20 feet off the ground. Though you might not be able to see anyone actually play this game anymore (thanks, colonialism), you can visit the ruins of the ancient sports arenas where it used to take place. Adventure into the Yucatan Peninsula to Chichen Itza and walk the field that usually led to the execution of the losing team.

25. Countryside Bocce Ball Competition; Bocce Ball - Italy
This old-time countryside pastime can get pretty competitive when old man pride is on the line. Find a vineyard in the hills of Tuscany and watch some old timers get serious about some competitive bocce.

26. America’s Cup Sailing Race; Sailing Race - U.S.A.
Hosted by the previous year’s winning yacht club, this world-class sailing race brings the best of the best together for an electric sailing battle between the some of the world’s greatest illustrious clubs. Plus, who doesn’t want to hang out on the beach all day?

27. South African Rugby Match; Rugby - South Africa
Made legendary by Nelson Mandela’s involvement with the sport’s ability to fight legalized segregation, South African rugby is synonymous with toughness, both mental and physical. Experience South Africa’s storied rugby culture while visiting this region of Africa.

28. The Eddie; Surfing - Hawaii, U.S.A.
Each winter, if the waves on Oahu’s North Shore reach 40 feet, this world-class big wave surfing event occurs. It’s held in memory of the North Shore’s first lifeguard, Eddie Aikau, who risked his life and died to save the crew of his outrigger that planned to sail from Hawaii to Tahiti. Since the competition’s inception in 1986, it has only been held nine times. Winners include Eddie Aikau’s brother, Clyde, and the world-famous Kelly Slater.

Bonus

The Palio; Horse Racing - Siena, Italy
Twice a year (July 2 and August 16), Italians gather at the central plaza of Siena, Il Campo, to watch horses dash around the track. The plaza packs full with locals and tourists, making it an incredible people-watching cultural event.

That concludes our list. If you have a particular story to share about any of these events, let The Adventure Tribune know!

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Tom Malone is the Editor-In-Chief of The Adventure Tribune and author of adventure novels, like Across Americana. He is based in Denver, Colorado, where he adventures through the Rocky Mountains while not traveling abroad.
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