Travel: Simon Calder column

Rugby fans are traditionally less trouble than their soccer counterparts
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ATLANTA '96... France '98... Sydney 2000... these days, the sensible traveller knows how a big sporting event can disrupt a destination. Last summer's soccer World Cup in France showed how. Ferries and the Channel Tunnel hit full capacity, while tour operators fearful of hooliganism banned single-sex groups from booking into campsites. Next year, hoteliers in Sydney will be cashing in on thousands of sports fans and half the world's media turning up for the Olympics.

Yet travellers who prefer to give international sporting competitions a wide berth could this year find themselves caught up in events spilling over from the host country: truly jeux sans frontieres.

Take the Cricket World Cup, beginning in England this month. The main venues look comfortably familiar: Lord's and Edgbaston, Headingley and Trent Bridge. But anyone studying the English Cricket Board's website (www.lords.org) will find some intriguing directions for the 26 May match between South Africa and Kenya: "From the Hague, Rotterdam and Haarlem, follow signs to Amstelveen..." - a suburb of Amsterdam. Visitors to Edinburgh and Dublin can expect to encounter New Zealand, Bangladeshi and Pakistani supporters.

Across in Cardiff, Glamorgan's home ground will host one of the biggest matches, between Australia and New Zealand, on 20 May. This location, at least, is understandable; for cricketing purposes England and Wales are as one. For a while the England cricket team was even captained by a Welshman, Tony Lewis.

In 1999, Mr Lewis finds himself figuratively batting for his country of birth; he is now chairman of the Wales Tourist Board. Wales is hoping to welcome 55,000 fans to the Principality, and expects to earn an extra pounds 12m from the Rugby World Cup in October and November - not bad for a competition where only three of the 18 venues are in Wales.

Rugby fans are traditionally less troublesome than their soccer counterparts; even so, fleeing to France could be a mistake. No fewer than five venues for the biggest sporting event in Welsh history are on French territory. The opening day of the tournament will find Fiji taking on Namibia in the small Mediterranean port of Beziers. Paris, Toulouse and Bordeaux are also hosting games, as is the crowd-weary town of Lens. Galashiels, Limerick and Huddersfield are among the other locations adopting temporary Welsh nationality for the championship.

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