The 2020 sporting calendar was decimated by the COVID pandemic. The year will be remembered for cancelled tours, postponed events and empty bio-secure venues. However, hopes are high that 2021 will see a return to something approaching normality and the sporting calendar is bulging. Here, we look at the biggest events we didn’t see in 2020 either through postponement or intended suspensions.
FIS Alpine World Ski Championships (Cortina a’Ampezzo, Italy: February 9th – 21st)
There are plenty of winter sports already ongoing, and early 2021 sees a packed program ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics. Chief amongst the events will be 46th running of the World Ski Championships, with the Italian Alps playing host. The home crowd will be behind home favorite Dominik Paris in the Super G. The men’s downhill should see another intense battle between defending champion Kjetil Jansrud and Norwegian compatriot Aksel Lund Svindal, while American hopes will be on Mikaela Schiffrin in the women’s Super-G.
March Madness (Indianapolis: March 14th – April 5th)
The COVID pandemic played a major role in the annual March Madness tournament, which has been ongoing since 1939. With various schools backing out of the event, it made sense to delay competition until the following year. Powerhouse programs such as Gonzaga and Baylor are expected to be among the elite contenders, as Duke and Michigan State are hopeful for eventual turnarounds to their respective seasons.
Monaco Grand Prix (Monte Carlo: May 23rd)
Motorsport survived the pandemic better than most sports, with Formula 1 operating a reduced season and most of the bluechip petrolhead events able to take place. However, one notable casualty was Formula 1’s traditional glamour weekend on the Riviera. The tight streets of Monaco remains the ultimate test of a driver with overtaking chances at a premium and short straights. Mercedes have won five of the last seven here and Lewis Hamilton will hope to draw level with Alain Prost’s mark of four Monaco wins.
Euro 2020 (12 Host Cities: June 11th – July 11th)
The European Championships’ 60th anniversary party had to be postponed a year, but will still be called Euro 2020. As originally planned, the tournament will have 12 host cities spanning the continent. It all starts on June 11th at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico with Italy hosting Turkey and will end with the final at Wembley.
The group phase offers some intriguing fixtures with defending champions Portugal facing World Cup winners France in a repeat of the Euro 2016 final. In addition, football’s oldest rivalry renews as England squares off against Scotland. Meanwhile, both Finland and North Macedonia will make their first ever appearances at a major finals. The Euros are notoriously unpredictable, and as Greece showed us back in 2004, if you’re in it, you can win it.
Wimbledon (All England Club, London: June 28th – July 11th)
For the first time since World War II, 2020 saw the All-England Club remained closed for the summer. Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep will receive the chance to defend the singles titles they won in 2019 in a tournament that will have plenty of plot lines to follow. Will it be a last stand for Roger Federer? Will Serena Williams arrive, still trying to level Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam wins? Can home favorite Andy Murray complete the mother of all comebacks?
Lions Tour of South Africa (South Africa: July 3rd – August 7th)
A special summer of Rugby awaits in South Africa with the British and Irish Lions returning for the first time in 12 years. Warren Gatland will take charge for the third time after leading the Lions to a win in Australia in 2013 and a drawn series in New Zealand four years ago. As was the case when the Lions toured in 1997 and 2009, the Springboks will host as World Champions having beaten Gatland’s Wales in the World Cup semi and England in the final. As is always the case with the Lions, huge intrigue will follow Gatland’s squad selection through the winter and spring. If the last two tours tours of South Africa are anything to go by, this series will be a thriller.
The Olympics (Tokyo: July 23rd – August 8th)
The greatest show on earth was forced to break its four-year cycle, but despite the delay, Tokyo is ready to welcome the rest of the world next year. The Olympics have changed beyond recognition since Tokyo last hosted the event in 1964 with an array of new sports joining the traditional blue ribbon events; with wrestling the latest sport added to the itinerary. Sadly, the controversies have already begin with Russia’s doping ban and 100m World Champion Christian Coleman suspended. However, the Olympics always survive and the world will be watching.
Ryder Cup (Whistling Straights, Wisconsin: September 24th – 26th)
For the second time in the 21st century, the Ryder Cup was postponed by a year. Padraig Harrington will lead Europe’s defense of the title they regained at Ile-de-France in 2018 against a United States team captained by Steve Stricker. The recent history of the tournament has seen the United States have the bigger stars, but Europe has been the better team; winning seven of the last nine titles. The good news for the United States is that they’ve won two of the last three at home, and this time, the venue is Whistling Straights. As ever, attention will center on Tiger Woods who holds a strangely poor Ryder Cup record.
ICC T20 World Cup (India: October- November)
The T20 World Cup didn’t just get postponed, it actually moved continents. Australia was due to host the tournament this autumn, but with the pandemic causing postponement, the ICC also announced India as the new host with Australia to hold the next World Cup. England will start as favorites with Eoin Morgan’s side looking to do the World Cup double. Australia will be lead by the destructive batting of Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell, while Pakistan will be strong behind the batting of Babar Azam. However, one team not currently among the fancied are the holders are the West Indies, having sunk to tenth in the World Rankings.
Rugby League World Cup (England: October 23rd – November 27th)
Although it dates back to 1954, the Rugby League World Cup has never quite scaled the heights of public excitement its Union cousin has managed. Part of that is the lack of parity in competition, with Australia winning eight of the last nine titles dating back to 1975. This time, England plays as hosts, and unlike previous RLWC’s, they are hosting alone with the venues focused mostly on the game’s traditional powerbase in the north. However, Australia starts as hot favorites with England, New Zealand and Tonga the sides most likely to challenge.
The Ashes (Australia: November 22nd – January 14th, 2022)
Test Cricket’s longest running rivalry returns with England’s tour of Australia. The Ashes will begin on November 22nd at the Gabba. Australia will be in a confident mood after retaining The Ashes with a 2-2 draw in England last summer and having blitzed New Zealand and Pakistan last winter, although India are currently proving a tougher nut to crack.
England lost 4-0 the last time they went to Australia, but this time will have Ben Stokes back in their ranks. The wicket England will prize the most will inevitably be Steve Smith after his peerless batting performances last summer, but David Warner will be the one to watch. Last summer’s Ashes was the most competitive we’ve seen for over a decade, but this winter should provide similar drama.
This past year gave everyone a reminder that there are far more important things in life than their favorite teams, but when sports did return, it provided many with a timely boost. The missing ingredient in sport’s restart was the fans. In most countries, fans have begun to trickle back into the stadiums. However, safety and wellbeing has remained a priority.