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World Cup vs. Olympic Games: Which is bigger?

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I heard today on the ESPN TV broadcast that the World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world. It's led me to a very interesting idea: Which is bigger? The Olympics (Winter and Summer) or the World Cup? The Olympics have the best athletes in the world in most sports (Basketball, track and field, swimming, tennis in summer, Skiing, snowboarding, hockey, speedskating in winter) and of course The World Cup features the World's best soccer (or football) players.

This is obviously an Olympics forum, but the World Cup is currently up and running in South Africa and London 2012 is two years away.

So which sporting event do you think is bigger? Olympics or World Cup? I'm thinking that the World Cup is bigger. You see a lot of the world's best players on TV playing for their league teams every year, while with most Olympians (unless you are diehard) you don't see them all that much.

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The Olympics I would think, They draw huge audiences from all continents, World cup for the most part is a Europe, South America, Africa thing.

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Hmmmm. I'm probably biased, like many here I assume, in that I'm here primarily as an Olympic fanatic.

There's probably some truth in that the WC is the world's biggest sporting event. But I believe the Olympics are more than just a sporting event, with so many different levels of interest and significance that it's in a class by itself.

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I'd say Olympix...based on the number of countries/athletes participating, the press that is credentialed to attend the event, the cost of rights to stage the Games, AND the number of volunteers needed to run the whole show (anywhere from 40, to 70,000 as I believe China boasted they use). The WC probably uses no more than 12-13,000 volunteers and lesser man-hours too than what the Olympic volunteers put in.

Plus, on Ceremonies alone, it takes at least some 12,500 people to stage Opening & Closing Ceremonies. How many does a World Cup use? What 1,500 for yesterday's Opening?

Yes, the WC may attract a far larger global viewership but that's probably the only area that it could compete or overtake the Summer Olympics.

And remember, there are also the Winter Olympics, so add another 35% to all the figures above.

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No doubt, the Olympics are the world's largest sporting tournament. I think the two are equally complex in nature, and the World Cup needs more coordination on a national level, while the Olympics need more coordination on a city/region of a country. One could make the argument that one other the other is straining, but I think it really depends on the readiness of the country. Germany probably didn't have to put nearly as much into preparations as South Africa. Just like LA '84 was very different than Beijing '08.

The Beijing 2008 Opening Ceremony was the most watched event in history, so that right there speaks volumes, but I would be interested to see a comparison between the two in global viewership throughout their entirety. We also have to consider the Paralympics as well (but I wouldn't lump summer and winter games together, as they take place two years apart in separate cities/countries).

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The Beijing 2008 Opening Ceremony was the most watched event in history, so that right there speaks volumes, but I would be interested to see a comparison between the two in global viewership throughout their entirety. We also have to consider the Paralympics as well (but I wouldn't lump summer and winter games together, as they take place two years apart in separate cities/countries).

"Beijing's Opening was the most watched event in history" because it was scheduled in advance and thus monitored. But how do you count the viewers who watched 9/11...and over and over again? I'll bet the coverage of 9/11 would rank as THE most watched TV event in history.

Similarly, it's very hard to quantify Olympic and World Cup viewership figures. I think people who watch Olympic events do so because they are the "OLympics"..the grandeur, the color, the uniqueness of the event. If they happen to involve one's own national teams & athletes, the affinity is greater. Whereas WC matches are followed mostly (or certainly to a much greater degree) by the countries following. Sure there are matches which involve the traditional soccer powers (say, an Argentina v. Netherlands match...or some match-up which rarely happens), and these would attract great viewerships across the board. But for the most part, there is very strong viewership among the countries directly involved.

So again, very hard to quantify.

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And a 2nd question should be raised and that is:

Should the Olympics be stretched out to a 1-month long event?

I think the Olympics are the bigger sporting event. For all the effort that goes into setting it up, I wish that it was a month-long event. As I said in another thread, it would be nice to see the Paralympics merged with the Olympics thereby making it a month-long event.

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From a personal level:

I don't like football, so the world cup is not my thing.

The advantage with the Olympics is the multi-sport element, you don't have to like Athletics to watch the Olympics etc. there are alternatives.

Thats a personal opinion there.

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It's simple...the SOGs are bigger based on competitor numbers, associated staff, volunteers, officials etc, budget, and participating teams/nations/associations. It can also be argued that the Summer Games are bigger than a WC in terms of spectator numbers, depeniding upon the year and the host city. Where the WC probably has the upper hand is in international interest...howany people inMalu would be interested in Judo, or how many in Tuvalu in archery? When it comes to the round ball game every country's audience gets WC fever to some extent

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It's simple...the SOGs are bigger based on competitor numbers, associated staff, volunteers, officials etc, budget, and participating teams/nations/associations. It can also be argued that the Summer Games are bigger than a WC in terms of spectator numbers, depeniding upon the year and the host city. Where the WC probably has the upper hand is in international interest...howany people inMalu would be interested in Judo, or how many in Tuvalu in archery? When it comes to the round ball game every country's audience gets WC fever to some extent

This.

Technically the Olympics is much bigger but in terms of interest (certainly here in the UK) there is no contest - the World Cup is much bigger. Though for a home Olympics I hope that'll be different. B)

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Should the Olympics be stretched out to a 1-month long event?

Ain't gonna happen. Too intense; too expensive. A terrible strain for the hosts. WC only stretches to a month because as time moves forward, the participants and venues dwindle; thus the focus becomes more micro-concentrated and the momentum becomes sustainable. But not possible for a 25+sports tournament that the SOGs are. It is untenable.

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Perhaps they meant this year? Compared to OWG it is bigger; compared to the OSG not really. Spreading out the OSG would be a bad idea...they're already too big and too costly and too disruptive. But in terms of viewing audience I'd guess the football World Cup final is tops this year.

Sad but true about 9/11...the world was watching.

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I'd say the Summer Olympics are bigger, and they are much more than just a sporting event. The only items that the World Cup beats the Summer Games in is the tv ratings though largely because it's a month-long event whereas the Games are 17 days.

The Winter Games are big too, but they rank below the World Cup and Summer Games...

But what are the true tv ratings for the Olympics? You always get this 3-4 billion figure thrown around, but I think that's the figure for how many people that have access to coverage. If I remember correctly, the Salt Lake City Opening Ceremony drew ratings of 1-billion viewers and 700-million for the Closing Ceremony while the Torino ratings were 800-million for Opening and 400-million for Closing. For Beijing, nearly 900-million people watched the Opening Ceremony in China alone...the worldwide ratings for the Opening were likely a huge record setter, I'm guessing maybe 2-billion.

What are the actual ratings for the World Cup?

And the whole 1-billion tv ratings figure for the NFL Superbowl is complete baloney...that's how many people have access to coverage. It's closer to 200-million...nobody outside the states, except Canada, cares for the NFL.

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It's hard to compare, IMHO. In terms of complexity and influence over the world, the Olympics is bigger... but, most people are focused in the Opening Ceremony and the main events according to their own personal or national interest. On the other hand, the World Cup draws much more attention around the world over the sport itself... semifinals and the finals are watched even by people that don't care about football or the teams involved.

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For me it is the Olympics. For New Zealanders up until this world cup we havent been represented (except for 1982). There are more competitors and more countries represented in the Olympics

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I LOVE the Olympics - however, there are so many events, so many opportunities for success or failure (if team GBR don't do so well in rowing, there's always cycling / if USA don't do so well in the pool, there's always the track). In the World Cup there is only one team to place all your hopes into. The World Cup influences my mood more than any other event - there's far more passion invested in one game at the Finals than there is in one event at the Games.

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They're kind of different beasts so hard to compare. The World Cup is one world championships for the most popular game in the world.

The Olympics is 26-28 World Championships held simultaneously in one city. Its a cultural event as well as a sporting celebration. There seems to be something for everyone.

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Guest muniz

Hi,

It is a tough task to say any particular game greater as both has an important place .from my view I'd say the Summer Olympics are bigger, and they are much more than just a sporting event. The only items that the World Cup beats the Summer Games in is the tv ratings though largely because it's a month-long event whereas the Games are 17 days.

The Winter Games are big too, but they rank below the World Cup and Summer Games...

Thanks!

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MSDS Software

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I have respect for the World Cup, even though I'm not a soccer fan. Having said that, the Olympics are the bigger sporting event IMHO. It represents a wider swath of humanity than the WC (which, let's face it, is a MEN'S event and a limited men's event at that). How many countries actually make it to the WC? 32 out of 208 national teams. How many countries compete in the Summer Olympics? The record is 204 out of 205 current NOCs. Only 70-some countries in the world know what it's like to compete in the actual WC (qualifying tournaments NOT included), and only seven have actually won the damn thing. Out of over 120 current NOCs that have won Olympic medals, 80 countries have produced Olympic gold medalists. And just because the sports at the Olympics don't have the billion-dollar power of soccer, does not diminish their contributions to the world. Personally, I get goose bumps whenever the Olympics come around, winter or summer. I don't get that sensation around any other sporting event, not even the World Cup.

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I once have read that World Cup is bigger both in TV viewers, attendance and sponsorships.

No doubts, about the event itself, that Olympics are bigger.

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The Olympics are definitely the biggest sporting/cultural event in the world. There's certainly no question about that.

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I have respect for the World Cup, even though I'm not a soccer fan. Having said that, the Olympics are the bigger sporting event IMHO. It represents a wider swath of humanity than the WC (which, let's face it, is a MEN'S event and a limited men's event at that). How many countries actually make it to the WC? 32 out of 208 national teams. How many countries compete in the Summer Olympics? The record is 204 out of 205 current NOCs. Only 70-some countries in the world know what it's like to compete in the actual WC (qualifying tournaments NOT included), and only seven have actually won the damn thing. Out of over 120 current NOCs that have won Olympic medals, 80 countries have produced Olympic gold medalists. And just because the sports at the Olympics don't have the billion-dollar power of soccer, does not diminish their contributions to the world. Personally, I get goose bumps whenever the Olympics come around, winter or summer. I don't get that sensation around any other sporting event, not even the World Cup.

The WC is more about the sport and the journey itself. And it's the anticipation that's almost more fun than the tournament itself. Of the 32 countries that do make it to the final, it's all gonna end in heartbreak and misery for all but one of the team's anyway - everyone else is gonna lose painfully and ponder what might-have-been somewhere along the way. And after the end of this week, it'a not even daily ubiquitous action. One thing I remember from past Cups is how fun it is following the daily results and viewing in the group stages, burt then you get to the knock-out rounds and there's progressively less and less to watch and ponder until you get to the final week when all you're concerned about is two teams you may or may not like or follow.

I also don't think a WC so utterly transforms a location like the Olympics do. I've been in a WC host (Seoul) on its opening day, and an Olympic host (my dear old Steak and Kidney), on it's big opening day. There's no comparison with the spirit and utter transformation of the two. The Olympic host is transformed into something far beyond its ordinary situation. To me, in the WC you are still just a city that's hosting a big football match.

Anyway, you could argue round and round. I'd be ready to accept that the likes of us Aussies and Yanks just don't have the blood and emotional connection with Football that Euros and others do. But I do think the Olympics connects with a bigger and more diverse audience outside traditional sports fans and followers than the WC does.

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Different type of events, different logistics, different needs, different organizational structures.

Nice part about the World Cup, FIFA plugs the LOC budget, while the IOC requires government guarantees.

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Anyway, you could argue round and round. I'd be ready to accept that the likes of us Aussies and Yanks just don't have the blood and emotional connection with Football that Euros and others do. But I do think the Olympics connects with a bigger and more diverse audience outside traditional sports fans and followers than the WC does.

Yeah, I was just thinking that in this WC, of the 7 most populous nations in the world today, only two are represented: the US (#3) and Brazil (#5). But over 3 billion earthlings from the other 5 nations (China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh) aren't nearly as involved in this WC as they are in an Olympix. Even the largest Euro nation (Russia) has no great cheering incentive in this WC.

And of course, after all the African nations are eliminated (maybe soon), you can just bet you won't be seeing too many black faces in the stands.

Nice part about the World Cup, FIFA plugs the LOC budget, while the IOC requires government guarantees.

well, that's the only way they can attract nations to 'host' their mega-event.

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