Which Is the Most Watched Sporting Event in the World?

The most popular event
The most popular event every four years is the FIFA World Cup which consists of 64 matches throughout a month of action. I

Most sports fans have at some point wondered what the most-watched ever sporting event in history was. The Soccer World Cup Final? The Olympic 100m? The Super Bowl?

Many people automatically assume the Super Bowl is the world’s most-watched sporting event, but according to our research, it doesn’t even make it into the top 5.

The wildly differing viewing figures could be down to a number of different reasons, but in today’s increasingly commercial world, it is in an event’s interest to have as many viewers as possible. This attracts more and more sponsors and thus more money. Below we take a look at what our research points to as the world’s most-watched sporting events ever.

5) UEFA Champions League Final 2013

Bayern v Dortmund: 2013 UEFA Champions League final highlights ...
Bayern v Dortmund: 2013 UEFA Champions League final.

Number of viewers: 360,000,000

The UEFA Champions League is Europe’s premier club competition and is contested by the best teams on the continent. The 2005 final was played by Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund, making it an all-German affair. It was aired in more than 200 countries with an estimated global reach of 360,000,000.

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4) FA Cup Final 2005

Number of viewers: 484,000,000

Played at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium between Arsenal and Manchester United, two of the best-supported clubs not just in the UK but the world.

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What We Call History: 2005/6 – Part Ten.

Also contributing to the big viewing figures was the fact that the game ended up being the first goalless draw in an FA Cup final for nearly 100 years with more and more viewers tuning in toward the end of the game in anticipation of a penalty shootout. The game was eventually won by Arsenal.

3) FIFA World Cup Final 2006

Number of viewers: 715,000,000

Taking place on 9 July 2006, the 2006 World Cup Final was contested between Italy and France. The game has gone down in history for two reasons. Firstly, it saw arguably the world’s greatest player Zinedine Zidane sent off for a remarkable headbutt on an opposing player.

2006 FIFA World Cup™ - News - Remembering Germany 2006 in all its ...
2006 FIFA World Cup. (Source: FIFA.com)

Secondly, it was only the second-ever World Cup Final to be decided by a penalty shootout. These account for the huge viewing figures for this game.

2) Cricket World Cup 2015

Number of viewers: 1,000,000,000

If you’re not a fan of cricket, you may not grasp just how popular the game is, especially in countries such as India and Pakistan. Cricket is almost like a religion in these countries and the national teams are supported with a fervor that is amazing to watch.

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World Cup 2015: Australia reclaim World Cup and become a record.

So, when India played Pakistan as part of the 2015 World Cup, it was no surprise that an estimated 1 billion people watched it with India beating Pakistan by 76 runs.

And, the most-watched sporting event ever is:

1) Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony

Number of viewers: 1,000,000,000+

We’ve been conservative with our estimates of viewing figures for the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. Chinese news agency Xinhua estimated total viewing figures of nearly 4 billion, Bloomberg went with “billions” whereas Reuters decided upon “around one billion“.

Live Blogging: 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony ...
Beijing’s greatest show on Earth set the bar for Olympic Opening. (Source: Yahoo Sports)

The number of people watching the event was down to the Chinese being renowned at putting on such displays and they were set to spend more than any other country on the ceremony. The event was a huge success and the watching world was not disappointed.

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