United Kingdom: The Sports Capital of 2017
The crème de la crème of track and ﬁeld compete at the World ParaAthletics Championships (14-23 Jul) and the IAAF World Championships (4-13 Aug; www.london2017athletics.com), both of which are taking place at London’s Olympic Stadium. These will be the venue’s largest events since it hosted the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and just as prestigious. See if GB’s gold medal-winning para-athletes Jonnie Peacock and Hannah Cockroft can retain their top spot, plus enjoy what might be the last time we’ll ever see the legends Mo Farah and Usain Bolt compete on the international stage before they retire.
The best two teams in Europe face each other in the UEFA Champions League Final in Cardiff (3 Jun) – making this the ﬁrst time the contest’s decider has been held in the Welsh capital. The 75,000-capacity Principality Stadium (formerly the Millennium Stadium) is more accustomed to Wales’ rugby or football international matches, so winning the bid for this European ﬁxture was a huge coup. It’s one of the world’s most widely viewed sporting events of the year, with TV ﬁgures of 180 million viewers in 200 countries.
The proudest man on the night will probably be Wales’ very own Ian Rush, who won trophies for Liverpool FC and is the ambassador for the ﬁnal. It’s not yet conﬁrmed if any English club will make it to the Champions League Final – but there will be, for sure, at the Emirates FA Cup Final held at Wembley Stadium (27 May; www.wembleystadium.com). It’s been played here almost every year since 1923. As May is also the ﬁnal month of the football league, it also means tense promotion play-off ﬁnals for the lower three leagues, where jubilation meets heartbreak for players and fans alike. The play-off ﬁnal for promotion from the Championship to the Premier League (29 May) is billed as the richest match in football, and is worth an estimated £200m to the winners.
The unmistakable sound of leather on willow is a quintessential soundtrack of an English summer’s day, with Lord’s Cricket Ground (www.lords.org), the granddaddy of them all, located here in London. The season kicks off in May with two One-Day Internationals, with England vs Ireland (7 May) and then against the highly regarded South Africa (29 May). Later, the Test Match season sees another intriguing encounter against South Africa (6-10 Jul). Cricket fans will be eager to see if England’s new captain, the Yorkshireman Joe Root, can show leadership skills as great as his batting prowess. This summer also sees the top women’s cricket teams compete for the ICC Women’s World Cup (24 Jun-25 Jul; https://womensworldcup.tickets.icc-cricket.com) at venues including Bristol, Derby and Leicester; then it’s all eyes on the ﬁnal at Lord’s (23 Jul). This competition sees the world’s top eight teams in women’s cricket, including England, India, Australia, New Zealand and the West Indies, compete for glory. Will anyone wrestle the trophy from the current holders, India?
Women’s sport has made huge strides in this country over the past few years; it’s not just about the standards on the ﬁeld of play, but also new levels of respect and media coverage. It’s good news for Ireland, which plays host to the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup (9-26 Aug; www.rwcwomens.com). After the group matches in Dublin and Belfast, the ﬁnal rounds will be played at Belfast’s Kingspan Stadium (22 & 26 Aug) – one of the country’s most atmospheric rugby venues. England won the last trophy in 2013, thereby ending New Zealand’s run of four straight victories. The Black Ferns will surely be looking for revenge. Murrayﬁeld, in the beautiful Scottish capital of Edinburgh, is the superb venue for European Rugby’s Challenge Cup (12 May) and the Champions Cup Finals (13 May). It’s the third time since 2005 that this magniﬁcent stadium has hosted these prestigious matches, between the northern hemisphere’s ﬁ nest teams.
There are four Grand Slams every year, but all tennis players say that Wimbledon at the All England Club (3-16 Jul; www.wimbledon.com), which is the world’s oldest tennis tournament, is their favourite tournament. And who can blame them? The players’ sparkling white dress code, the immaculate grass court and huge crowds are spine-tingling stuff. GB’s very own Sir Andy Murray is the current champion and world number 1, but Novak Djokovic and the evergreen Roger Federer won’t lie down easily. And could it be time for our Johanna Konta to win her ﬁrst Grand Slam? If you don’t have tickets, queue up on the day or watch the action on a big screen on Murray Mound. Konta will probably warm up for Wimbledon at AEGON International Eastbourne (www.lta.org.uk), a tournament for the world’s top women players held at leafy Devonshire Park (23 Jun-1 Jul). The men have their own warm-up at the AEGON Championships at London’s Queen’s Club (19-25 Jun).