The 50 Best: Your Ticket To The Best Of The Action

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The Independent Culture
Today's boat race between Oxford and Cambridge is just the curtain- raiser to a terrific summer of sporting events. As well as the traditional delights of Royal Ascot, Cowes Week and the British Grand Prix, there's the mouth- watering prospect of Euro 2000 football and the Cricket World Cup coming to these shores. Then there's the Tour de France, the London Marathon, the World Bog Snorkelling championships ... And who knows, there's even the possibility of a British victory at Wimbledon. Over the next eight pages, Nick Harris and Chris Maume guide you to the best of the summer. Enjoy!

THE BEST EVENTS IN APRIL

THE BEST EVENTS IN MAY

THE BEST EVENTS IN JUNE

THE BEST EVENTS IN JULY

THE BEST EVENTS IN AUGUST

THE BEST EVENTS IN SEPTEMBER

NB: all details were correct at time of going to press, but ticket availability cannot be guaranteed

1

TODAY: THE BOAT RACE

Oxford and Cambridge meet today (3 April) to contest the world's most famous race on water, over a four and a half mile course from Putney to Mortlake. Up to 250,000 people will throng the river banks to see if Cambridge (above, in 1998) can extend their six-race winning run. Good vantage points include the start (the Bulls Head and White Hart pubs); Barn Elm playing fields; riverside pubs in Hammersmith (the Blue Anchor, the Dove, the Rutland) and the finish (the Ship Inn at Mortlake).

Where: River Thames between Putney Bridge and Mortlake. Starts at 3.30pm. Tickets? None needed; arrive early for a good view.

2

TO 4 APRIL: DAVIS CUP

A couple of years ago Britain were near the bottom of the Davis Cup ladder. Now, thanks to Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski (above), they're back with the big boys, taking on the United States. Davis Cup matches are always more partisan, high-energy affairs than Wimbledon, with all the atmosphere of a Cup final, so the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham should be buzzing.

Where: National Indoor Arena, Birmingham.

Tickets? NIA box office: 0121-200 2222.

3

8-11 APRIL: US MASTERS

The US Masters signals the end of winter and the start of a new golfing season in earnest. With the Augusta magnolias in bloom, the pristine fairways lined resplendant with Georgia pines and the world's finest golfers competing for the first Major of the season, the event is guaranteed to be nothing if not showy.

Where: Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia, US.

Tickets? Impossible to get from the venue as it sells out years in advance. Some packages available from the accredited agent, The American Golf Holiday (01703 465885). Website: http://www.masters.org/

4

10 APRIL: THE GRAND NATIONAL

The world's most famous horse race takes place on a four and a half mile course at Aintree, over 30 of the most demanding fences on the planet, including The Chair (above) and Becher's Brook. Thirty-seven horses started last year, six finished. Double Thriller is hot favourite to win this year's race, but watch out for Go Ballistic, second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Where: Aintree race course, Liverpool.

Tickets? Call 0151-523 2600 for general info. Hotline for availability in Tattersalls (pounds 11 Thur - pounds 20 Sat): 0151-522 2929. Website: http://www.aintree.co.uk

5

11 APRIL: WALES VS ENGLAND

Rugby union at Wembley might not feel right, but during their sojourn there, Wales have claimed it as their own. The Five Nations' Championship, the Triple Crown and the Grand Slam rest on this match: Wales may be out of the running, even with the inspirational Craig Quinnell (above), but England can win the lot. Against France, they relied on the kicking of Jonny Wilkinson; there's likely to be much more flowing rugby in this encounter.

Where: Wembley Stadium.

Tickets? Welsh RU: 01222 390111; or Wembley Stadium: 0181-902 8833.

6

17 APRIL TO 3 MAY: WORLD SNOOKER CHAMPIONSHIPS

In the not too distant past, the snooker World Championship was the most-watched sporting event in the country. Who can forget the momentous moment when Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis on the final black and gave the crowd a finger-wagging and a cheeky grin? Not the 23 million viewers who saw it live on TV. Those days are gone, but Davis and Taylor are still with us, even if they've been usurped by younger men such as last year's champion John Higgins (above).

Where: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.

Tickets? Call 0114-249 6006.

7

18 APRIL: LONDON MARATHON

The annual gathering of around 30,000 obsessives with more stamina than sense. Spaniard Abel Anton will be defending his men's title against one of the strongest fields assembled for a city marathon, but the real interest lies in ordinary people pushing themselves to the limit. The run begins in Greenwich, goes through the Docklands and the City and winds up on the Mall. Half a million spectators are expected to line the route. Where: London. Tickets? None needed. See maps on the day for vantage points. Website: http://www.london-marathon.co.uk

8

1 MAY: CHALLENGE CUP FINAL

This is the last chance to see rugby league's blue riband event at the old-style Wembley stadium before it decamps to Murrayfield. This occasion is like the FA Cup final, only better - every pub on the roads to Wembley will be full of both sets of fans, carousing arm-in-arm. Depending on who reaches the final, tickets may well be reasonably easy to come by.

Where: Wembley Stadium.

Tickets? Rugby Football League: 0113-232 9444.

9

1-2 MAY: 2000 GUINEAS

The 2000 Guineas, the first of the year's five Classics, will be fought out over a straight mile on the Saturday. The 2000 is the first leg of the Colts Triple Crown (The Derby and the St Leger are the others), last won by Nijinsky in 1970. On the Sunday, the 1000 Guineas, the Fillies' version of the race, takes place over the same course and distance.

Where: Newmarket, Cambs.

Tickets? Available on the day, or call 01638 663482.

10

3 MAY: WOMEN'S FA CUP FINAL

Whereas it's almost impossible to get tickets for the men's equivalent event, there should be no problem getting in to see the women's FA Cup final. Though slower than the men's game, it is often more entertaining. This year's final is on Bank Holiday Monday, and will see the winners of Doncaster Belles vs Arsenal (above) meet the winners of Southampton vs Tranmere.

Where: Venue to be decided after semi-finals (to be played 4 April). Further information from Katherine Knight (0171-314 5267).

Tickets? From either of the participating finalists, or direct from the venue.

11

13-16 MAY: ROYAL WINDSOR HORSE SHOW

Along with Hickstead the previous week, this is one of the most delightful events on the equestrian calendar. Most of the leading show jumpers will be there, particularly for the Grand Prix on the Sunday. Other events include carriage driving (in which Prince Philip will be at the reins) and a pony "grand national" for the juniors.

Where: Home Park, Windsor.

Tickets? Royal Windsor box office: 0870 9010600. Website: www.royal-windsor- horse-show.co.uk

12

14 MAY: CRICKET WORLD CUP

Do England have a hope of winning the World Cup on home soil? Is that a posse of pigs flying over Lord's? The hosts may not have a chance (or then again, they may surprise us), but there should be no lack of entertainment in watching the Australians and Pakistan teaching us a thing or two about our summer game.

Where: cricket grounds throughout the country. Final at Lord's.

Tickets? To be placed on the waiting list for any match, send your name, address, daytime telephone number and ticket request to Lord's Cricket Ground, London NW8 8QN. Alternatively, fax requests on: 0171-432 1030. Credit card bookings: 0870 606 1999. Website: http://www.lords.org/

13

15 MAY: TETLEY'S BITTER CUP FINAL

Rugby Union's FA Cup final, usually with the atmosphere to match, but easier to get into. One of this weekend's semi-finals, Wasps vs Gloucester, will hold the key: a win for Wasps, with their small fan base, will free up plenty of space at Twickers. If Gloucester go through, however, expect an invasion from the West Country.

Where: Twickenham, Middx.

Tickets? Ticketmaster: 0171-344 4444.

14

16 MAY: MONACO GRAND PRIX

The most atmospheric race on the Formula One calendar. The tight, twisty circuit means that although overtaking is largely the preserve of the foolhardy, the racing is still exciting. Then there's the beau monde to observe - though be prepared for beau monde prices, too.

Where: Monte Carlo.

Tickets? Can still be bought via http://www.f1- tickets.com/GB/order/index.htm, or via the Automobile Club of Monaco (00377 9315 2600). Website: http://www.monaco.mc/monaco/gprix/ or http://www.formula- 1.co.uk/

15

19 & 26 MAY: EUROPEAN CUP-WINNERS CUP FINALS

Will this be the year that Manchester United emulate the 1968 European Cup winners (above)? If so, they'll have to beat Juventus in the semi- final over two legs (7 & 21 April), then contest the final in the glorious Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona. Will Chelsea retain the Cup-Winners' Cup? If so, they'll have to overcome Real Mallorca and then contest the final on British soil at Villa Park.

Where: European Cup-Winners' Cup final, Villa Park, Birmingham (0121 327 2299); European Cup final, Nou Camp, Barcelona (00 34 93 49 63 600).

Tickets? From the participating clubs. Some availability direct from the venues. Website: http://www.uefa.com

16

22 MAY: FA CUP FINAL

This year's final will be the penultimate FA Cup to played at Wembley before the Twin Towers are pulled down and the stadium is transformed into a futuristic national sporting arena. Could Manchester United still be on course for a unprecedented domestic double paired with European glory? Will Arsenal still be on course to do the league and Cup Double? Will George Graham lead his Tottenham side to their second cup of the season, or will Newcastle spoil the party?

Where: Wembley Stadium.

Tickets? Only available through the clubs competing in the final.

17

23-29 MAY: PRUTOUR

More than 20 elite teams will be slugging it out round Britain. Chris Boardman's Credit Agricole Team will be out to repeat their victory from last year (as GAN) when Stuart O'Grady (above) clinched the Red Jersey of overall race winner. With pounds 100,000 at stake, this is one of the most lucrative engagements in the cycling calendar. The Tour begins in London, taking in Kent and the South Coast, up to Swansea, through the north-west and up to Edinburgh.

Where: England, Scotland and Wales.

Tickets? None necessary. An official information line will be set up in the next couple of weeks. Until then, call 0171-334 6989.

Website: http.//.www.prutour.co.uk/

18

24 MAY TO 6 JUNE: FRENCH OPEN

This tournament often throws up unsung heroes, and the hunky new world No 1, Carlos Moya, was last year's surprise package. It's reasonable to anticipate a fair showing this year from our brave boys, too, and this is the perfect opportunity to do a bit of flag-waving while taking in Paris. On the women's side, the formidable and controversial Amelie Mauresmo, playing in front of her home crowd, may choose this moment to make her inevitable Grand Slam breakthrough, while last year's winner, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (above), can be relied on for a thrilling game.

Where: Paris. Tickets? French Tennis Federation (00 33 1 47434800).

19

29 MAY: SCOTTISH CUP FINAL

With Rangers playing St Johnstone and Celtic taking on Dundee United in the semi-finals this weekend, the first Old Firm final for 10 years is on the cards. That might make tickets more difficult to come by, but the atmosphere would be worth the effort - and it will be an occasion of seething intensity, whoever reaches the final.

Where: Hampden Park, Glasgow.

Tickets? Scottish FA: 0141-332 6372.

20

5 JUNE: ENGLAND VS SWEDEN

Kevin Keegan may be the nation's saviour, maybe not. For England not to qualify for Euro 2000 would be an unmitigated disaster, so it's likely to be a tense night at Wembley. As they showed last September, the Swedes can match England for pace and invention, and this is unlikely to be a game of cat-and-mouse and packed defences. It could be one of the great nights.

Where: Wembley Stadium.

Tickets? Wembley box office: 0181-902 0902.

21

5 JUNE: THE DERBY

The world's most famous flat race, and the most prestigious of the five Classics, takes place over a mile and half on the unique switchback circuit on Epsom Downs. Among the top hats and tails, you'll find a fairground on the downs, jellied eels by the bucket-load and plenty of bookmakers to relieve you of your money. Above all there's the chance to witness a horse that just might follow in the footsteps of Seabird II, Nijinsky or the ill-fated Shergar.

Where: Epsom, Surrey.

Tickets? Call 01372 726311.

22

12 & 13 JUNE: LE MANS 24 HOUR RACE

There are three motor races in the world that still hold the romance and thrills more than any others. And the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 are the also-rans behind the Le Mans 24 Hour. Held almost every year since 1923, this is the biggest test of them all for both man and machine.

Where: Le Mans, France.

Tickets? Contact the French Tourist Board in London on 0891 244123.

23

15-18 JUNE: ROYAL ASCOT

High fashion, hats and top-class racing meet head on in one of the smart set's events of the season. Dodge between the new reds (yellows) and the new blacks (browns) and mingle with hoi polloi in the Royal enclosure; keep an eye on the headgear on ladies' day; and find out who is the best stayer on the planet in the Gold Cup, the centrepiece of the whole meeting on Thursday.

Where: Ascot, Berks.

Tickets? General information: 01344 622211; credit card hotline: 01344 876456.

24

17-20 JUNE: US OPEN GOLF

Lee Janzen (above) won last year's US Open, in San Francisco, and will be among the favourites this year. The big question for Brits, though, is whether Colin Montgomerie or Lee Westwood can make the breakthrough their talents deserve. If either of them are ever going to, they will never be better placed than now.

Where: Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Tickets? Packages available from The American Golf Holiday (01703 465885). Website: http://www.usopen.com/

25

12 JUNE TO 4 JULY: WIMBLEDON

Could this be the year that we finally see a Brit lay to rest the torment that the nation's tennis has suffered since Fred Perry's last win in the Thirties? Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski are riding high in the rankings, so 1999 will offer as good a chance as any. And with a new generation led by Venus Williams (above) and sister Serena, the women's game is in its healthiest state for years. So there should be plenty of attractive tennis between the rain showers.

Where: The All England Club, Wimbledon.

Tickets? Ballot tickets have all been allocated, but admission on the day is offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Get those sleeping bags ready. Website: http://www.wimbledon.org

26

26 JUNE: WALES VS SOUTH AFRICA

The resurgence of Welsh rugby in the last year has been extraordinary. In the Five Nations' this year, they produced some thrilling rugby, and this is their chance to test themselves against the best in the world. There may not be any silverware at stake, but with not long to go to the World Cup, the Springboks (above) will be taking this very seriously indeed.

Where: Wembley.

Tickets? Wembley box office: 0181-902 0902; Welsh Rugby Union: 01222 390111.

27

30 JUNE TO 4 JULY: HENLEY ROYAL REGATTA

For those not spending the week messing about on the water (ie taking part in the rowing, which starts with heats on Wednesday and finishes with finals on Sunday), there'll be plenty of champagne and strawberries to consume and hob-nobbing to do on the river bank. Lounge suits, blazers and cravats are compulsory in some areas. A fireworks display on the Saturday night is provided for the proletariat.

Where: Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

Tickets? Regatta enclosure on the day (limited) pounds 6 to pounds 10. For advance tickets, from 4 May, call 01491 572153. Postal applications to: Regatta Headquarters, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon RG9 2LY. Website: http://www.hrr.co.uk/1999/1999.htm

28

1 JULY TO 23 AUG: ENGLAND VS NEW ZEALAND TEST SERIES

Alec Stewart (above) has enjoyed a reasonable introduction to the rigours of captaining England, although, depending on how his side fares in the World Cup, the honeymoon may be a long way in the past. This Test series should be the perfect way to round off a successful summer - or the last chance to claw back some pride...

Where: 1-5 July, Edgbaston; 22-26 July, Lord's; 5-9 August, Old Trafford; 19-23 August, The Oval.

Tickets? Edgbaston: 0121-446 4422; Lord's: 0171-432 1066; Old Trafford: 0161282 4021; The Oval: 0171-582 7764.

29

2 JULY & 16 AUGUST: IL PALIO

Since the 11th century, this historic Tuscan city has come to life twice a year for a unique horseback race honouring the Virgin Mary. Ten districts compete in a madcap bareback race through the Piazza del Campo. The race only lasts a few minutes, but the festivities commence hours beforehand and continue into the night. You'll have to book your accommodation well in advance, even if you're travelling in from Florence or Pisa.

Where: Siena, Italy.

Tickets? None necessary. Siena Tourist Office: 00 39 0577 280551. Website: http://www.sienanet.it/palio/

30

3-25 JULY: TOUR DE FRANCE

Setting off from Le Puy de Fou in the Vendee region, this tour (won last year by Marco Pantani, above) has four high mountain stages. The Alpine ones are always great to watch, and this year come before the Pyrenees, providing two fantastic mountain stages, the first to Sestriere followed by a classic stage to L'Alpe d'Huez on Bastille Day. Failing that, get to the Champs-Elysees on the final day very early to secure a vantage point for the mad sprint finish.

Where: France. Tickets? None necessary. Graham Baxter Sporting Tours in Wharfedale (0113 284 3617 or http://www.sportingtours.co.uk/) are organising 14 assorted trips to this year's Tour. Official Tour website: http://www.letour.fr/

31

3 JULY: WORLD WIFE-CARRYING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Based on a strange 19th-century custom, the annual wife-carrying championships involve contestants carrying their wives (which do not have to be their own, but must be over 17) up a mountain track. The winner receives his wife's weight in beer. The race takes place in the picturesque Iisalmi region, the Finnish equivalent of the Lake District, and could be a novel way to while away an afternoon on holiday.

Where: Sonkajarvi, Finland.

Tickets? None necessary. Further information from the Finnish tourist board in London (0171-839 4048) or the Sonkajarvi information office in Finland (00 358 17 822 346). Website: http://www.sonkajarvi.fi:1997/

32

3-4 JULY: DONINGTON MOTORCYCLE GRAND PRIX

A good day out or weekend away for those turned on by an engine on two wheels. Watch out for Australia's Mick Doohan (above), the reigning 500cc world champion, on his Honda, and Max Biaggi, the Italian maestro, who rides a Yamaha.

Where: Donington Park, Castle Donington, Derbyshire.

Tickets? Call 01332 810048 (general information). Tel: 0115 9129124 (credit card hotline). Prices from pounds 30 for the weekend including parking to pounds 25 for Sunday only.

33

5-11 JULY: HURLINGHAM BRITISH OPEN

The world's premier croquet event takes place in 40 acres of Thames-side, peacock-roamed gardens at the height of summer. Will Robert Fulford, the reigning champion, be able to defend his title? Will the honours go to his doubles partner, Chris Clarke, or even the loud but lovable David "The Beast" Maugham? Go along and find out.

Where: The Hurlingham Club, Ranelagh Gardens, London SW6.

Tickets? Enquiries on 0171-736 3148; tickets available on the gate.

34

7-11 JULY: ROYAL INTERNATIONAL HORSE SHOW

The biggest equestrian event of the year sees the Nations' Cup contested on the Friday, the Queen Elizabeth II Cup on the Saturday and the King George VI Gold Cup on the Sunday. There are also numerous showing categories, dressage competitions, and a whole host of other trade and craft exhibits to meander through.

Where: The All England Jumping Course, Hickstead, West Sussex.

Tickets? Call 01273 834315. Website: http://hickstead.co.uk/

35

7-14 JULY: PAMPLONA BULL RUNNING

The Festival of San Fermin (known commonly as the Running of the Bulls) has been the stuff of legends ever since Hemingway made the Festival famous with The Sun Also Rises. At 8am every day during the festival, the mayor sets off a rocket and the runners start running. Exactly a minute later, the bulls give chase. You can watch or you can run. Tough choice, that.

Where: Pamplona, Spain.

Tickets? No tickets needed. For information about travelling to Spain, contact the tourist board on 0171-486 8077.

36

9-11 JULY: MUCH WENLOCK GAMES

The place in sporting history of this sleepy Shropshire town will forever be secure since a visit by Baron Pierre de Coubertin (above), around a century ago, gave him the idea for the modern Olympic Games. Events in the first Games, in 1851, included chasing a pig through the town. The 113th, this year, will attract around 2,000 athletes with a full track and field programme, cricket, karate, volleyball, bowls and a triathlon.

Where: Much Wenlock

Tickets? None necessary. For information, call Games Secretary Norman Wood (01952 727615).

37

11 JULY: BRITISH GRAND PRIX

A year ago, Michael Schumacher (above) ploughed through the rain to beat the eventual world champion, Mika Hakkinen, with Ferrari's Irishman Eddie Irvine close behind. The same drivers will be at or near the front of the grid this time round, and with Damon Hill hoping not to be too far behind the leaders, the boisterous home support might have something to shout about.

Where: Silverstone, Northants.

Tickets? Silverstone: 01327 857273.

38

15-18 JULY: THE OPEN

The world's most prestigious golf tournament will take place in the wilds of Carnoustie for the first time in more than 40 years. All eyes will be on Tiger Woods as he attempts to take a Major on British soil for the first time. There's always the chance, however, that the Open could create an overnight sensation from an amateur, as happened last year to Justin Rose (above), who has since failed to bloom.

Where: Carnoustie, 12 miles north of Dundee.

Tickets? From pounds 3 for practice on Sunday 11, to pounds 25 on Championship days, Thur-Sun. Ticket hotline: 01334 478478. Website: http://www.carnoustieopen.org.uk/

39

18 JULY: COWDRAY GOLD CUP

The main event of the polo year, this event sees the climax of a series of matches that start in April and end with the presentation of the Cowdray Cup. A good day out is promised for all, even those who are not necessarily interested in watching men on horses with sticks. A fair, a band and numerous trade exhibits are all promised to enliven proceedings.

Where: Cowdray Park, Midhurst, Sussex.

Tickets? Call 01730 813257.

40

27-31 JULY: GLORIOUS GOODWOOD

The Sussex Downs provide the breathtaking backdrop to five days of top- class racing. The Sussex Stakes (Wed 28) will determine the best horse over a mile in Europe, while the Richmond Stakes (Thur 29) and the Champagne Stakes (Wed 28) will give invaluable pointers to next year's Classics. On the final day, watch 30 sprint handicappers breast the rise in the highly-competitive Stewards' Cup.

Where: Goodwood, Sussex.

Tickets? Call 01243 755022.

41

31 JULY TO 7 AUG: COWES WEEK

This small town on the Isle of Wight is known as England's yachting capital. During Cowes Week, over 1,000 boats take to the water for a week- long orgy of yacht racing, partying and other bacchanalian festivities. There are plenty of finishes along the shore, with good viewing from the Squadron, and at the end of the week is the spectacular start of the Fastnet race.

Where: Cowes, Isle of Wight.

Tickets? None necessary. Cowes Tourist Information: 01983 291914. Website: http://www.wightonline.co.uk/cowes/

42

1 AUG: SUPERBIKES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

More than 80,000 people are likely to descend on Brands Hatch for this leg of Superbikes World Championship, making it one of the best attended events of the summer. All eyes are likely to be on Carl Fogarty (above right) on his scarlet Ducati. Fogarty, the best-loved British biker since Barry Sheen, will be attempting to secure his fourth world title this season.

Where: Brands Hatch, Kent.

Tickets? Call 01474 872331. Website: http://www.brandshatch.co.uk

43

17-19 AUG: YORK EBOR MEETING

The wives of the muck'n'brass capitalists refer to York as the "Ascot of the North". Not so. The fashion is less risible at this meeting and the racing is better. The Judmonte International, over 10 furlongs on the Tuesday, will help establish which is the best middle-distance horse in Europe while the Nunthorpe Stakes, on Thursday, will determine which is the fastest on the planet. In between, the Ebor Handicap on Wednesday provides punters with a chance to hit the bookies with a big-price winner.

Where: York Race Course.

Tickets? Call 01904 620911.

44

20-29 AUG: WORLD ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

With a little luck, this should provide 10 days of Brit-friendly medal- collecting - at least if last month's world indoor championships in Japan are anything to go by. Hansen, Lewis (above), Jackson, Backley, Edwards are all going for gold, while Britain's strongest challenge of all will be in the 400 metres, with the likes of Iwan Thomas and Jamie Baulch.

Where: Seville.

Tickets? International Amateur Athletics Federation: 00 34 95 446 79 99; fax: 00 34 95 446 34 19; email: sevilla99@sevilla99.org

Website: http://www.iaaf.org/

45

29 AUG: NATWEST TROPHY FINAL

Between 4 May, when the opening round is played, and Sunday 29 August, when the final takes place at Lord's (the home of cricket), the counties will battle it out for the honour of taking home the country's most highly- prized cup. More likely than not, Lancashire, led by Mike Atherton (above), will end up in the final, but who they will meet (or indeed whether they will fulfil what their fans see as a right) is yet to be seen.

Where: Lord's, London NW8.

Tickets? Via the clubs participating in the final or direct from Lord's: 0171-432 1066.

Website: http://www.lords.org

46

30 AUG: WORLD BOG SNORKELLING CHAMPIONSHIPS

On the outskirts of the scenic Llanwrtyd Wells, 40 competitors will don wetsuits, masks and flippers and take turns to swim along a 60-yard long ice-cold peat bog and back. Who does it fastest wins, and people come from all around the world to take part. This quiet spot in the Cambrian Mountains is also perfect for mountain biking, birdwatching and walking.

Where: Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales.

Tickets? None necessary. For more details, contact the Llanwrtyd Wells Tourist and Information Centre (01591 610236).

47

30 AUG TO 12 SEPT: US OPEN TENNIS

Forget the politely rippling applause of Wimbledon. This is tennis in the raw, watched by the rough and ready natives of New York. It's no coincidence that this is the tournament where John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors felt most at home, and the evening sessions under floodlights have a unique atmosphere. The faint-hearted should stay away.

Where: Flushing Meadow, New York.

Tickets? US Tennis Association (00 1 914 696 7000).

48

4 SEPT: ROYAL HIGHLAND GAMES

The oldest and most famous of the Highland Games provides a memorable day of tartan, Highland Dancers and massed Pipe bands, in addition to the track and field programme. People come to the gathering from all over the world. From caber-tossing and weight-throwing to fell-running and cycle races, all in a spectacular mountain setting.

Where: Braemar.

Tickets? Braemar Tourist Information Centre (013397 41600). Seats may be reserved by writing to: The Bookings Secretary, BRHS, Coilacreich, Ballater, Aberdeenshire, Scotland AB35 5UH (013397 55377).

49

12 & 26 SEPT: ALL-IRELAND FINALS

It is generally acknowledged that most sporting activity developed as substitutes for battle, and hurling and Gaelic football are among the sports that best express that ancient truth. The All-Ireland finals take place in an atmosphere of uninhibited carousing, both in Croke Park itself and the city at large. These are occasions to savour.

Where: Croke Park, Dublin.

Tickets? Tickets are issued to individual clubs. For information, contact the Gaelic Athletic Association (00 3531 836 3222) or Irish Tourist Board Travel Enquiries (0171-493 3201).

Website (until 15 April): www.unofficial.gaa.ie

50

24-26 SEPT: RYDER CUP

Every two years, golfers on both sides of the Atlantic make conciliatory noises about what nice men their opponents are. Then the competition begins, and hostilities break out. This is golf as war, or war as golf. Mark James's European side will be defending the title they won in Valderrama, but the Americans will be busting several guts to make sure they grab it back.

Where: Brookline, Massachusetts.

Tickets? A few packages available from The American Golf Holiday (01703 465885).

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