Australia is a sports mad country. It is a nation which has produced many world-class athletes and hosts numerous globally-watched sporting events.
It is estimated that 80% of Australia’s adult population gambles, which makes its sports betting industry one of the largest in the world.
Therefore, with a country whose citizens live for sport, it is wholly unsurprising that capital city Melbourne has, perhaps, the largest collection of international sports events in the world.
And it would be a crime for those visiting this sunny metropolis to not take advantage of this. So, to help those new to Down Under, here are three must-watch sporting events in Melbourne.
Melbourne Cup (November)
Australia has one of the oldest horsing racing cultures in the world, with the Melbourne Cup being the jewel event of the country’s equine calendar. To demonstrate the age of the Melbourne Cup, the earliest existing trophy for the event was won in 1866.
First run in 1861, the Melbourne Cup is a thoroughbred horse race run over 3,200 metres and contested by steads of three years or older. Known domestically as ‘the race that stops a nation’, the event is held annually by the Victoria Racing Club at the Flemington Racecourse. The current record holder is 1990 winner Kingston Rule with a time of 3:16.3.
As is to be expected from a popular Australian sporting event, the Melbourne Cup is known for its vocal and passionate supporters, with drinks flowing freely throughout the race day. Moreover, even if you cannot get down to the track itself, pubs across the city will be showing the event and even attending one of these screenings is an electric experience. Often, patrons will be decked out in fancy dress and live bets can be placed as the actions unfold.
FUN FACT: It is telling of the Melbourne Cup’s international popularity that the only betting odds searched for more online are Grand National odds – a prestigious event in the UK’s National Hunt season, which has been hosted as far back as 1839.
Australian Open (January)
Originally the black sheep of the Grand Slam family, this opening major of the tennis season has gone from strength to strength in the last decade. This year, the Australian Open had a record-breaking 703,899 spectators and audiences are only projected to grow over the coming years.
The event has become a firm-favourite amongst fans and players alike, with this year’s men’s winner Novak Djokovic claiming it to be the most popular stop on tour. The Australian Open is known for its sunny climate, laid-back atmosphere and knowledgeable supporters.
FUN FACT: Despite now being the favourite Grand Slam of many top players, the Australian Open often failed to attract international players in its early years due to the long travel time involved. In fact, between the tournament’s founding in 1905 and the arrival of the Open Era in 1969, only ten of the male champions were not Australian.
Australian Grand Prix (March)
Attended by more than 300,000 spectators in 2014, the Australian Grand Prix is one of the most popular stops on the F1 calendar. Won last year by Nico Rosberg and featuring a controversy surrounding Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo car running with a too high fuel flow rate, the Australian Grand Prix always brings the drama.
Having been first run at Phillip Island in 1928, the Australian Grand Prix has been held 79 times since its debut and has been contested on tracks throughout the country. However, since 1985, the event has been at the Melbourne Grand Prix circuit, when it became a round of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The most successful racers at the event have been Australia’s Lex Davison and Germany’s Michael Schumacher, who both won the event four times.
FUN FACT: At 86 years and counting, The Australian Grand Prix is the oldest motor racing competition still being held in Oz.