Top five most viewed sporting events of all-time

Santosh KSantosh K

August 25 2023
Sporting Events

Tour de France is one of the most successful events held every year.

The world’s most celebrated and captivating sporting events are a testament to the most exhilarating entertainment available on planet Earth. These sporting events are the major reason for the cross-cultural infusion, the sheer impact of bringing people and various nations together, and the enormous sense of joy and pride it can provide to the loyal supporters of the various sports.

In this article, we will discuss the top five most-viewed sporting events of all time. The list has been curated considering the number of live engagements, digital views, and long-lasting impact created by these sporting events.

2006 Winter Olympics – 2.1 Billion Viewers

Opening ceremony of 2006 Winter Olympics (Courtesy: Olympics.com)

The widely renowned 2006 Winter Olympics officially the XX Olympic Winter Games also known as Torino 2006, were a winter multi-sport event held in Turin, Italy. Popular sports included figure skating, alpine skiing, ice hockey, and snowboarding. Like the Summer Olympics, the Winter Games take place every four years. This event saw countries like Canada and Germany get higher viewership due to their dominating performance over the years at the Winter Olympics.

If we look at the numbers, a total of 80 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) entered the event and attracted the attention of 2.1 billion viewers. Germany won the highest number of gold medals with 11 and led in overall medals tally with 29 for the third consecutive Games. Latvia and Slovakia won the first medals in their Winter Olympic history.

The participation of 2,508 athletes across 89 events and 15 sports disciplines made this event a huge success garnering huge viewership and engagement.

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Cricket World Cup 2019 – 2.2 Billion Viewers

England lift the maiden 50 overs World Cup in 2019 (Courtesy: ICC Cricket)

Cricket is the fastest-growing sport currently that is spreading its fever on the world map. India, Australia, England, New Zealand, and Pakistan are some of the cricketing giants playing the sport. Cricket is expanding rapidly like a forest fire across the map and is a frontrunner to become the most-viewed sport of all time.

The Cricket World Cup 2019 which was played in England boasted a cumulative viewership of 2.2 billion viewers and is soon predicted to take over world viewership with its expansion into North America, specifically the USA. The Indian Premier League (IPL) is the second-most valued league with broadcast rights costing around $16 billion.

The knock out stage weas played by India, New Zealand, Australia and England which gathered huge attention from spectators and digital engagement was off the charts during the World Cup 2019.The final match between England and New Zealand ended in a tie that too twice which is a very rare occurrance. The World Cup final was one of the most thrilling and nail-biting finals of all time. Hence, deservingly gathered huge amounts of viewership.

Tour de France (Every Year) – 3.5 Billion Viewers

Tour De France is one of the most successful events held every year (Courtesy: Bike Radar)

The Tour de France is the most prestigious and illustrious cycling event that takes place every summer in France. It’s the toughest race that features 21 stages across the scenic landscapes of France. The cyclists race as part of an eight-person team, working together to achieve the fastest cumulative time. The race is 23 days long and stretches across 2200 miles.

Now, let’s talk some numbers – the Tour de France has a whopping 3.5 billion viewers every year. This massive engagement of live spectators and digital viewership is the third most for any sporting event in the world.

Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Miguel Indurain are the popular figures who have won the most Tours – five times each. Every year, the Tour de France inspires millions of people to take up cycling and it is safe to say that it attracts billions of people across nations to the most physically grueling and respected racing spectacle of all time.

Summer Olympics 2016 – 3.6 Billion Viewers

Rio 2016 garnered the most views among all the Olympic editions (Courtesy: USA Today)

The Summer Olympics is another sporting event after football that boasts of large reach across nations, with 11,238 athletes from 207 nations including first-time entrants Kosovo, South Sudan, and the Refugee Olympic team taking part in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil. The Summer Olympics is a platform for various athletes to showcase their talents, with around 40 distinctive sports and 339 events.

Olympics has always promised inspiring stories of grit and determination and for athletes winning medals for their country is considered a prestigious achievement that gives their respective nations global recognition.

The mega event had a 3.6 billion viewership. The event attracted a huge number of live spectators apart from its enormous digital viewership. Michael Phelps led an all-star cast of multiple medal winners at Rio 2016, with Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, Usain Bolt, and Jason Kenny and few star attractions who pulled such huge crowds attend to the games and made it the second most viewed event of the world.

FIFA World Cup 2022 – 5.4 Billion Viewers

Lionel Messi leading Argentina to 3rd FIFA World Cup title in 2022 (Courtesy: Hindustan Times)

The FIFA World Cup is another example of a sporting event that goes beyond boundaries, creating engagement and massive viewership. Football is by far the biggest sport in terms of its reach, with more than 200 nations associated in an official professional capacity (higher than the number of countries associated UN). The sport is particularly popular in Europe, Central and South America, and Africa and has a growing influence in North America and Asia.

If we take a look at the numbers, the recent FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar has garnered a whopping 5.4 billion viewers. This craze of football in the recent World Cup reached its highest peak of viewership. The rivalry of Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi was at its peak with their loyal supporters wanting their star player to win the maiden World Cup.

The Lionel Messi-led Argentinian team defeated the French team to lift the World Cup. The mega event saw heartbreaking upsets, magical performances, and more than half of the world’s population tuning in for the World Cup. Hence, making the FIFA World Cup 2022 the most-viewed event of all time.

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