Sports aren’t for everybody, and that’s okay. But it’s a rare life that includes no friends or family members with a passion for at least one. The reality though is that even those whose eyes tend to glaze over at the first mention of a sport need not be entirely left out of the fun –– because a lot of the biggest and most famous sporting events in the world are really as much about spectacle or destination as actual sport. To that point, we want to highlight some major sporting occasions you can enjoy even if you’re not a huge fan of the sport at hand…
Naturally, the summer games tend to be the bigger of the two quadrennial athletics extravaganzas, but the winter games are no small deal. In either case though, the sports themselves can be mesmerizing even for non-fans, with the added spice of the athletes representing their countries on the world stage. Many who don’t traditionally get into sports will get into the patriotism of it all, tracking medal counts for countries and keeping an eye out for unexpected flags (like Jamaica participating in the bobsled). Others will enjoy the ceremonial symbolism of the torch lighting, or the mind-blowing displays of the opening and closing ceremonies. In short, there’s a lot going on even aside from the sports.
The Super Bowl
For fans of American football, the Super Bowl is a bit like Christmas. For these fans and millions more Americans, it’s a chance to throw or attend parties, enjoy a range of bizarre, themed snacks and decorations, and enjoy the company of friends and family. It’s much the same for those lucky enough to attend the game too, given how much of the excitement revolves around pregame tailgating and the like. And what’s not to enjoy about all of that, even if you don’t like sports? Throw in the over-the-top halftime show, the celebrity spotting, and the general, festive buzz of the event, and it’s really an occasion anyone can get into.
The World Cup
The Super Bowl might be a huge deal in the U.S., but the other football is the one that matters to most of the world, and competitions don’t get any bigger than this one. Much like the Olympics, the economics of the World Cup and all the activity around it are significant enough to have a large and measurable impact on the host country; Bloomberg retorts that Qatar has already seen a USD $20 billion boost from the World Cup set to take place this year. That speaks to the general scope of the event, and once again here it’s the spectacle of it all that makes it fun for the non-fan. Should you get the chance to attend, you can get swept up in brand new stadiums, high-energy fan bases, and plenty of festive eating and drinking between matches.
The Royal Ascot
There are frankly a lot of major horse racing events that could make it onto this list –– the Kentucky Derby and Cheltenham Festival among the alternatives. But the Royal Ascot is perhaps the best of the bunch for this discussion. A nearly week long festival at one of the UK’s best-known courses, it’s a racing event at which the equine component is likely paid less attention than the hats alone. Said hats are famously flamboyant, and attendees wearing them are about as posh as a crowd gets (up to and including members of the royal family). The celebrity- and fashion-sighting are tremendous throughout the festival, but some days stand out in particular: A Gala Bingo blog post describes the Ascot Ladies Day as the perfect excuse to “doll up to the nines and feel like a million dollars,” noting that traditional race festival “ladies days” simply don’t come any bigger than this. Who needs sport with all that going on?
The popularity of NASCAR racing doesn’t stretch across the world, but in parts of the United States, going to the Daytona 500 is the ultimate sports bucket list occasion. Arguably the most famous auto racing event in the western world, it’s a gigantic occasion featuring countless drivers and a staggering number of fans, all convening in Daytona Beach, Florida. Not entirely unlike a major horse race though, this event is ultimately as much a cultural festival as it is a sporting event. Without the slightest interest in racing, you can go with friends or family and enjoy exploring the venue, partaking of endless food and drink, and feeding off the energy of the crowd and various side attractions.
Among so many professional tennis tournaments around the world, the four Grand Slam events — the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open –– it’s Wimbledon that holds the greatest prestige. And while any of these events can be fun for a non-fan (they all take place on sprawling grounds full of delightful food options and happy fans), Wimbledon is indeed the one to get excited about. For those who can get excited about a gorgeous, historic venue, a stylish crowd, strawberries-and-cream treats (with champagne), and celebrity sightings, the tennis can become a secondary attraction.
There are many more examples that could be added to the list, but suffice it to say that the bigger the event and the sport, the more otherwise-uninterested people can tend to enjoy it all.