Is Australia the sporting capital of the world?
Lance Armstrong and his lycra clad buddies are in Adelaide, Federer and co. are in Melbourne, the Aussie cricketers are touring the nation, as the A-League is coming down to a thrilling conclusion, and the AFL and rugby folk gear up for another season.
Plenty to keep us entertained. So is Australia the sporting capital of the world?
We’ve all heard the expression “Melbourne. The Sporting Capital of the World.”
In many ways London has more of a right to the title with thirteen professional football clubs, Wembley stadium which has staged a World Cup final, Wimbledon, Twickenham, Lord’s and its third Summer Olympics around the corner, and yes I know London’s population is larger than Melbourne’s but London has a larger percentage of the major sporting events in the UK than Melbourne has in Australia.
While it may be the hub of the AFL, if we focused only on the Victorian capital we would ignore the Tour Down Under, the SCG, the NSW versus Queensland State of Origin rivalry and the city which actually first attracted a Grand Prix down under, Adelaide.
So, with Australia Day around the corner, let’s forget the city concept and expand slightly to a national platform and how we compare against other nations.
The USA is an obvious competitor.
Its own sporting creations are huge with a variety of codes sharing the limelight, the likes of the NBA, MLB, NFL etc plus the various college competitions.
Like Australia, it has sports on the fringes, a useful example being Major League Soccer that, like the A-League, has a difficult task in competing against the indigenous football codes.
However, Australia has a better record of turning major international sporting events into a success than the USA, which tends to be very introverted when it comes to sport and how it views the rest of the world. In other words, considering our relative population, we have a better appreciation and following of events and sports played outside our homeland, surely a sign of a nations obsession with sport.
For example, we have a better record of enticing and maintaining global sports to our shores such as motorsport and cycling – the Tour Down Under is the only event outside Europe on the UCI Pro Tour.
What about the UK with the most popular domestic league around the world, the EPL, and the various events in its capital London?
Unlike in the USA and Australia, there is not the variety of codes that share the limelight with the EPL and football in general dominating. For example, the basketball league in the UK, the BBL struggles a lot more than our version of the game does.
As the UK prepares for its Olympics and with so much government funding being invested into various stadiums and programs, the UK will only grow as a sporting nation as their performance at Beijing indicated, and that investment filters down to strengthen local competitions, development and eventually fanfare.
So are we the sporting capital of the world?
It may be a futile exercise but it does provide an interesting comparison.
This Australia Day we should be thankful for the variety of our sporting palette. It might just be the best in the world.
Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.