On July 20, 1969, an estimated 530 million people watched the live global broadcast of the Apollo 11 moon landing (this constituted around 14% of the total population of the world at the time. Lots of other events through history from Some of the big Mohammad Ali fights to Live Aid, Olympics Opening ceremonies, and many other events clock up numbers into the billion, but sport has proven king when it comes to attracting audiences into the billions.
There are a lot of conflicting figures out there so we have based the below on a lot of different research. We have also excluded events such as the Premier League, Champions League, NFL which run over a long period of time.
There are the 7 biggest sporting events in the world:
7. Rugby World Cup
The Rugby World Cup is hosted once every four years and held over the course of seven weeks
With lots of new nations rising through the ranks of rugby, the Rugby World Cup 2019 is set to be the biggest rugby event in the history of the game. There are now 30 rugby-playing countries around the world with 20 of these qualifying for this year’s World Cup.
It’s estimated that 750 million to 1 billion will tune into the 2019 tournament.
6. The Asian Games
Over half of the world’s population lives in Asia so any big sporting events there is going to be huge. The pan-Asian event features 484 events in 42 sports. 45 countries participate and it’s estimated that around 1 billion people tune in to watch
5. The Winter Olympics
Winter sports are certainly not global but that doesn’t stop tropical countries such as Tonga or Jamaica getting involved! And in terms of viewership it’s massive, winter sports are the fastest non motorised sports and therefore make great viewing.
The last 5 Winter Olympic Games have each had over 2 billion viewers with the opening ceremony every 4 years being a huge audience draw.
4. The ICC Cricket World Cup
While cricket is not a global sport like football nor is its’ world cup a truly global event, cricket is one of the most-watched sports in the world mainly down to its popularity in India with a population of over 1.3 billion and Pakistan with a 200 million + population.
The 2016 and recent 2019 Cricket World Cup have both reached an audience of 2.2-2.5 billion people.
3. Tour de France
Almost 3,500 kilometers are now covered each year in the first three weeks of July, with 22 teams of 8 cyclists – 176 competitors in total!
According to a national French website, the race is broadcast in 130 countries by 100 television channels over 6,300 hours and is followed by 3.5 billion viewers. Over figures are put a little more conservatively at an average TV viewership of 2.6-billion. It also has a massive audience every year with millions turning up to watch the various stages, the Tour de France best-attended annual sporting event on the planet.
2. The FIFIA World Cup
Probably the event that everyone thought would be number 1, the World Cup is indeed behind the Olympics. With 32 counties qualifying and most countries having a football team, it’s another truly global event.
Since 1998 the FIFA World Cup has averaged 3 billion people who have watched parts of the tournament, with the 2018 Russian world cup topping 3.5 billion viewers.
The Summer Olympics
Help every 4 years, the Summer Olympics is a truly global event and unlike some sporting events which are only shown on pay-per-view TV, the Olympics are accessible to nearly everyone across the world.
Since 2004 some of every Olympic Games has been viewed by an average of 3.5 billion-plus making the Olympic Games the most viewed sporting event across the world. Even the opening ceremonies dwarf everything else, for example, the 1996 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, where Muhammad Ali lit the torch, was watched by an estimated 3 billion + viewers.
The scale of the Olympics is enormous with 28 different sports and some of those like athletic have a huge amount of different individual disciplines. 92 countries competed at the Rio 2016 Games.
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