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Tokyo 2020

FIFA World Cup v/s Olympics — Which is the biggest sporting event in the world?

When it comes to sporting events, nothing can match the sheer greatness of the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.

Kylian Mbappe at 2018 FiFA World Cup and Usain Bolt at the 2012 London Olympics
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Kylian Mbappe at 2018 FiFA World Cup and Usain Bolt at the 2012 London Olympics

By

Md Imtiaz

Updated: 2021-06-09T20:10:11+05:30

When it comes to sporting events, nothing can match the sheer greatness of the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. Nearly half of the world tunes in to see these two sporting spectacles unfolding. One has to consider that by Olympics, we mean the Summer Olympics Games here and not the Winter Olympic Games. Taking the debate further, let's try to analyse which is the greatest sporting event in the world - Is it the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup?

In terms of viewership, the Olympic Games have a slight edge over the FIFA World Cup. According to the Global Broadcast and Audience Summary of the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, it fetched a viewership of 3.57 billion. A report by Statista suggests, the most recent summer games, held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, drew in an audience of 3.6 billion viewers.

Next, when it comes to individual events, no sporting event can match the viewership of the World Cup final. Approximately 1.12 billion people watched at least a minute of the 2018 World Cup final between France and Croatia.

A glimpse from the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia

In terms of the number of athletes, the Olympics wins by far. Also from the perspective of a breadth of organising, the Olympics requires all sorts of different facilities while the World Cup requires only football stadiums.

Most countries already have football stadiums and simply need to refresh/renovate them and build a few new ones for the event, while an Olympics requires all sorts of things like aquatic centres, cycling tracks, skiing facilities, shooting galleries, among others.

From the perspective of the number of countries participating, in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, 208+1 countries participated in qualifying events which narrowed down to 32 in the main event. Meanwhile, a total of 206 nations participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The sheer volume of participants, events make Olympics the biggest sporting event in the world, but in the near future, the FIFA World Cup may topple the viewership of the Olympics.


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