The perfect way to marry your obsessive sports fandom with sight seeing and a vacation
We’ve spoken about active holidays in the past on these pages. And some of MBRB’s own favourite vacations have been built around a sporting event. Cape Town during the last World Cup, a sunny June afternoon eating overpriced strawberries and watching the sublime Federer in action, a balmy January evening spent at Madison Square Garden where we can confirm that a cannonball shooting T shirts is really a thing, and a weekday spent watching Ranji with an old friend with the entire Kotla to ourselves. The best part of building a vacation around a sporting event is belonging to the great unified sea of sports fandom. The worst part is probably the queues. But cities often present themselves at their best when they open up for a sporting event, and that is why we’d recommend fashioning a vacation around one of the five mentioned below in the next 12 months!
Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, 23 July – 3 Aug
The concept of the Commonwealth is such a relic these days that it makes an animated e-card look like the height of fashion. The idea of bonhomie between 53 countries who have just one thing in common – the privilege of being erstwhile colonies of the once mighty British Empire – sounds like a hoot. But the Commonwealth Games persist, and we are glad that they do. For apart from the Summer Olympics, where else do we get the chance to watch such a diverse variety of sports, especially obscure ones such as Rugby Sevens and Bowls? So if you missed the chance to watch the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, or enjoyed them so much that you can’t wait for the next edition, we suggest you book your flight to Glasgow right away. Over the course of a fortnight, you will watch some of the best players in the world compete across seventeen different types of games. If you can get in a few days earlier, you can join the Queen’s Baton Relay, which arrives in Glasgow on July 20th after a journey of 190,000 kilometres through 70 countries. If you’re still undecided, you should know that Usain Bolt will be participating in the Games.
Tickets: Can be bought here
Don’t Miss: Attend one of the numerous music gigs in Glasgow (it’s been anointed City of Music by UNESCO), walk around to enjoy the Victorian architecture, go for a comedy show, join a Céilidh (traditional Gaelic song and dance) in a pub and catch a game of football at Hampden Park.
New York City for the US Open, 25 Aug 25 -8 Sep
We can’t think of a better place to wrap up the Grand Slam tennis calendar than the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in Flushing Meadows, New York City – better known as the US Open. Like almost everything else in America, it’s less of a genteel sporting tournament than a gigantic spectacle – but that’s also what makes it so much fun! The boisterous crowds, the loud pre-match music, the night matches to pander to the TV networks and the bright lights can be a bit of a shock initially, but it’s difficult not to get caught up in the atmosphere. And if you are one of the 23,200 lucky spectators who manages to get into Arthur Ashe Stadium, you have bragging rights for having been at the largest tennis stage in the world. But if you can’t get into Arthur Ashe or Louis Armstrong Stadium (the second largest court), do not despair – you can always try for an evening grounds pass. Don’t miss the chance to watch a match at Court No. 17, popularly called The Pit because it’s sunk into the ground. Finally, If you are travelling with kids, do take them to the Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day that officially kicks off the tournament. To support Ashe’s dream of using tennis to empower the youth, there are performances by popular singers and exhibition matches between some of the biggest stars of the game. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to catch these VIPs sans their public masks, for who can resist the charm – and persistence – of thousands of overjoyed kids?
Tickets: Are already on sale here
Don’t Miss: Flushing Meadows also houses Citi Field, home to the New York Mets. Even if you don’t care for baseball, you shouldn’t pass by the chance to watch America’s national sport at one of its most popular venues. And if you’ve never visited NYC before, budget at least a week to soak in the varied charms of one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.
Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test
Ahh Melbourne in December! There are few places in the world where you can enjoy the Christmas spirit and get a tan on the beach, where the festival tradition demands a visit to the zoo, and where you can have a barbeque to go with your egg nog.
These are dark times for cricket, and nearly everything involved with the sport is stained with a patina of squeamy corruption. But one of the few traditions that remains delightful and worth keeping up with, is that of the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds. More than 250,000 saw the last Test (vs England) from the grounds, and there just may be more this year given that the Great Indian Juggernaut is in town. We wouldn’t recommend being there for all 5 days of the Test (our batting wouldn’t last that long), but the 2014 Boxing Day Test makes an excellent flagpole around which to build your Australian vacation. Others may suggest being there for the World Cup in February instead, but we are old-fashioned that way, preferring cricket’s stodgy old cousin and Melbourne in December to the tamasha of the One Day championship.
Tickets: Go on sale 5th August and are available here.
Don’t Miss: The heartwarming Carols by Candlelight, an open air event in which nearly all of Melbourne gets together at the Myer Music Bowl to sing carols together in the night time. An excellent way to mingle with friendly Australians of every stripe!
The Hong Kong Rugby 7s
Rugby is a surprisingly fun spectator sport! You’d expect it to be bloody and knuckle-scraping/bone-breaking (and it is!) but it is also often about strategy and traditions and team spirits and lightning-quick pace. A good way to get introduced to the sport is to attend one of the Rugby 7s tournament. With each game consisting of just 2 halves of 7 minutes each, you can watch an entire tournament over the space of a weekend and get drunk in the evening with some of the most passionate fans in the business.
While Rugby 7 Tournaments are held all over the world the best place to watch the sport is at the Hong Kong Sevens to be held from 27-29 March in 2015. Dance away with the fans at the stand for all three days, don’t forget to watch the women’s event (yes); and join the mayhem in the notorious South Stands with streakers, flying beer jugs and mascots of every colour. This may just be the party to rival the ongoing Brazilian Carnivale!
Tickets: Go on Sale in December. Cathay Pacific organises some excellent round trip packages around it.
Don’t Miss: You can’t go to Hong Kong and not have yum cha – a leisurely tea and dimsum lunch had on communal tables with festive families. Every guide book and every local will suggest a different favourite ranging from the touristy City Hall’s Maxim Palace to the high end Man Wah. Select one that fits your budget, and overdose on clear teas and sticky pork buns!
FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco
Chances are that the ongoing goal fest in Brazil is making you regret not making the effort to be there (It doesn’t help that the next two World Cups are in Russia and Qatar. Perfectly fine countries perhaps, but unlikely to create the kind of atmosphere that the home of joga bonito did) . If you’d care to see some of the finest athletes in the world in action, may we suggest the FIFA Club World Cup to be held in Morocco from 10-20 December?
Cons: It is a largely inconsequential tournament held between the winners of the continental club champions with low stakes and little bragging rights.
Pros: Real Madrid has already qualified so you are guaranteed to see at least some world class players.
Cons: But does anyone play their best in this event?
Pros: It is being held in December in Morocco.
Watch one or maybe two games because ostensibly that’s what you’ve come there for, but spend the rest of your time enjoying the Art Deco architecture of Casablanca, the Bohemian seediness of Tangiers, or the souks of Marrakech.
Tickets: The tickets went on sale for the last Club World Cup in October 2013 (we told you it wasn’t a very popular event), and expect them to go on sale at the same time this year at this site.
Don’t Miss: A Moroccan Hammam. Morocco can be rainy and even a bit chilly in December, and a steam bath accompanied by a vigorous scrub (the kind that brings colour back to your skin, and reminds you of previous sins), is ideal after a day spent watching football.