Updated: Dec 13, 2021
✦ The Winter Olympics, The Ashes, Australian Open Tennis and the FIFA Football World Cup, plus much more!
Sport has always had a unique and undeniable ability to help people, communities and countries unite and overcome all manner of challenges, to rise above politics and public debate by providing an unrivalled thrill and sense of celebration.
Interestingly, whilst there have been obvious disruptions, delays and selected cancellations, sport tended to battle through the COVID-19 pandemic relatively unscathed and became an invaluable crutch many turned to when seeking respite from the daily toil the virus imparted in the last few years.
It is hoped that in 2022 it can continue to do this as we collectively strive to return to a level of normality in our lives and there are some huge events on the horizon for fans and spectators to enjoy.
Leading events on the 2022 calendar include the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 in England and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. New Zealand hosts two world cups – the women’s Rugby World Cup and the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup – while England will host the Rugby League World Cup and the Commonwealth Games takes place in Birmingham.
All eyes traditionally turn Down Under at the start of the year as a series of acclaimed sporting events kick off the year and 2022 is no different.
First and foremost, we have the Ashes carrying over from the tail end of 2021 as the Aussie and English cricket teams do battle for the cherished urn. England haven’t won on Aussie soil for 34 years yet go into the contest confident now that star all-rounder Ben Stokes has overcome his injury and mental health issues. Hopes are that COVID will not disrupt proceedings although Cricket Australia have already confirmed that the final test will not go ahead in Perth due to the strict COVID-19 border policies and subsequent quarantine rules imposed in Western Australia. Tasmania has been touted as a replacement venue for the test which is scheduled to take place between January 14-18.
The Australian Open tennis managed to go ahead unscathed in the last two years of the pandemic, albeit with strict health and safety protocols in place and little or no crowds, and next year it is scheduled to take place between January 17-30. It remains unclear whether we will see defending champion Novak Djokovic on court as the nine-time winner has declined to publicly state his vaccine status, deemed a prerequisite by authorities. Djokovic has previously railed against vaccine requirements, leading to assumptions that he will not be there although he has been named on the initial entry list of players.
Aussie Ashleigh Barty headlines the women's singles draw as she bids to win her first grand slam title on home soil. Alongside her will be defending champion Naomi Osaka and US Open champion Emma Raducanu, who will make her Australian Open debut. However, Serena Williams will miss out due to medical reasons.
The Australian Formula One Grand Prix hasn’t been so lucky in the past two years, cancelled on both occasions due to the COVID pandemic. However, it is scheduled for April 7-10 next year with high levels of anticipation at Albert Park in Melbourne. In fact, early reports state that demand is so high that additional grandstands will need to be erected. This season’s championship has Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton still battling for the title with, at time of press, just one race to go where the winner takes all at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The level of competition between Red Bull Racing and Mercedes this year has been fantastic and is a positive indication that the 2022 championship, with a record 23 races throughout the year, promises to be equally enthralling.
On the domestic front, the AFL Grand Final will take place at the MCG on September 24, the NRL Grand Final on October 2 and the Melbourne Cup on November 1 at Flemington Race Course.
On the global calendar there are two huge events taking place in 2022, both of which, sadly, are clouded in major controversy and which have seen the divides between sport and politics blurred considerably.
Firstly, China hosts the Winter Olympics in Beijing between February 4-20. It could be argued that the Games couldn’t come at a worse time for the host country which has been front and centre in the news seemingly non-stop for the last few years, usually not in a positive light. COVID-19, human rights, deteriorating geo-political relations with a wide range of countries, accusations of bullying over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and incessant agitation have seen attitudes towards China turn sour.
Boycotts are a very real possibility, although it would more so be of a diplomatic nature than that of the participating athletes and national governing bodies. Australia, the US and the UK have all confirmed that they are employing political boycotts which would see no government officials present for the occasion in Beijing, a move that has greatly angered the hosts.
That aside, the spectre of COVID is also a major hurdle for organisers which will see overseas spectators banned and only those from mainland China permitted in an effort to create some form of atmosphere. This was a similar outcome for the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo this year although it is fair to say that there were significant levels of sympathy for the host country on that occasion, something that one feels will be absolutely absent in Beijing.
To compound the troubles, there are worries that the proposed outdoor venue sites in China do not have reliable snowfall in winter for snow sports. Concerns have been raised that snow may need to be transported to the venues at great cost and with uncertain environmental consequences.
All these issues will also apply to the Paralympics which takes place in Beijing in March.
Later in the year we switch sports but the extreme levels of controversy still linger. The FIFA football World Cup will take place for the first time in the Middle East when Qatar hosts the centrepiece from November 21 to December 18.
The occasion has been dogged with controversy since the tournament was awarded to the tiny Gulf state in 2010, a desert nation with baking summer temperatures, no world-class stadiums, little interest in football but lots of money.
Allegations of bribery between the Qatar bid committee and FIFA members and executives have rumbled on in the background and huge questions have been raised about human rights, particularly regarding the two million migrant workers who have been brought in to assemble the gleaming new venues. The Guardian reports that in the last 10 years over 6,500 of these workers have died due to poor health and unsafe working conditions in extreme heat.
Additionally, the state’s stance on homosexuality as an illegal act has raised major concerns, especially as FIFA continually promotes the game as one accessible to all, regardless of gender, race, religion, etc. It does seem very much at odds with the LGBT+ movement which is making significant headway elsewhere.
Critics argue the World Cup is being used as just another cog in the country’s sport washing wheel, the practice of an individual, group, corporation, or nation-state using a major or prestigious international sport to improve its reputation and that the so-called beautiful game has already reared its ugly face on this occasion.
Elsewhere, stepping away from the two major controversial events, February sees the state of California hosting Super Bowl LVI in the US and the Six Nations Rugby tournament between England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland & Wales. The 2021 Rugby League World Cup, postponed due to COVID-19, will be held in England from October 15 to November 19.
New Zealand hosts the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup between March 4 to April 3 and the Women’s Rugby Union World Cup, postponed from this year, between October 8 to November 12.
Aside from the Qatar World Cup, key events in the football world include the African Cup of Nations which takes place between January 9 – February 6 in Cameroon. The FA Cup Final is at Wembley on May 14, the UEFA Europa League Final at Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in Seville, Spain on May 18 and the UEFA Champions League Final on May 28 at Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Fans will also be tuning into the Women’s UEFA Euro 2022 Finals, delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and now taking place between July 6–31.
In golf we have the Masters at Augusta taking place between April 7-10, the PGA Championship between May 19-22 at the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the US Open at The Country Club, Brookline, Massachusetts on June 16-19 and the Open at St Andrews in Scotland between July 14-17.
Key events to look out for in the tennis world in addition to the season-opening Aussie Open in Melbourne include the French Open at Roland Garros between May 22-June 5, Wimbledon which runs between June 27-July 10, and the US Open at Flushing Meadows in New York between August 29- September 11.
For running enthusiasts, there are several key marathons taking place next year that will be of interest: The Tokyo Marathon is scheduled for March 6, the Boston and London marathons on April 18 and 24 respectively, although the famed New York marathon has yet to set its exact date for March.
For those of a cycling persuasion, we have the Giro d'Italia taking place in both Italy and Hungary between May 6-29, the Vuelta a España between August 19 – September 11 in Spain, the 2022 UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, NSW between September 18-25, and, of course, the Tour de France running from July 1-24 but this year in France and Denmark.
In athletics we see the 15th-24th July 2022: 2022 World Athletics Championships taking place at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, USA between July 15-24 and the 22nd edition of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK between July 28-August 8.
These are just a few of the highlights in the sporting world that should keep fans enthralled throughout 2022 – whatever your preference, we hope you enjoy!
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