Weekly sports agenda: 33rd America's Cup, 44th Superbowl

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The Independent Online

Among major upcoming sporting events: the Winter Olympic Games start with a bang, there's All-Star Basketball and NASCAR motor racing on Valentine's Day, and a medieval version of football takes place in Ashbourne, England.

Rugby Union: IRB Sevens World Series
February 5-6, Wellington, New Zealand
February 13-14, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

New Zealand, having won both previous Sevens World Series legs, host in their homeland for the fourth in an eight-stop schedule that runs through until the end of May. Despite their home advantage, New Zealand has been grouped up with defending champions South Africa as well as the Welsh team in Group A. The Polynesian island of Niue are one of four, and Canada, Papua New Guinea and Tonga also join the 12 core teams. The Series then travels to the United States for the next leg where Guyana, Canada, Chile and Japan guest. Tickets for New Zealand are from $110 NZD (€55/$80) in temporary seating to $10,950 NZD (€5,570/$7,825) for the top VIP package. Spectators for the USA leg are asked for $35 (€25) for one-day upper seats up to $500 (€355) for two-day premier lounge hospitality.
http://www.irb.com/irbsevens
http://www.nzisevens.co.nz
http://www.usasevens.com

Rugby Union: Six Nations Championship
February 6 - March 20
Six European locations: London, England; Paris, France; Dublin, Ireland; Rome, Italy; Edinburgh, Scotland; Cardiff, Wales.

Six nations play to contest the trophy in a 15-match, five-weekend tournament of top-level European rugby. As well as the overall Six Nations trophy, there are several other titles up for grabs. England, Ireland, and Scotland all have special trophies awarded to the winners of their matches, and Wales join them in pursuit of the Triple Crown by winning against each of the four traditional Home Nations. France and Italy contest the Guiseppe Garibaldi Trophy, but of course the ultimate in bragging rights comes from achieving a Grand Slam by beating all five opponents. Tickets are available from each host nation Union, linked from the official website's Championship Info section.
http://www.rbs6nations.com

American Football: Super Bowl XLIV
February 7
Miami, Florida, USA

The Super Bowl, a face-off between the champions of USA's American Football Conference and the National Football Conference is the biggest event of the National Football League calendar with mass media coverage and many domestic parties in celebration. It takes place after the league's playoff finals the previous weekend. This year, British rockers The Who have been booked to play a half-time show, and other concerts have also been arranged for the Friday and Saturday nights beforehand. Ticketmaster has an official ticket exchange where unwanted passes are changing hands for upwards of $1,750 (€1,255); hospitality packages start at $2,899 (€2015). In terms of TV coverage, CBS have US rights as part of a rotating deal with two other broadcasters. ESPN America will show the game to European subscribers, and viewers in the UK can watch on BBC One or Sky Sports as well. The match starts at 18:30 Eastern Time (23:30 GMT).
http://www.nfl.com/superbowl/44

Sailing: 33rd America's Cup
February 8-12
Valencia, Spain

After a lengthy legal dispute that, as a side effect, led to the creation of the new Louis Vuitton Trophy series, the America's Cup is up and running again. For the first time in the history of the prestigious event, all races are to be broadcast live and online for free via the America's Cup website, so that everyone can get in on the action whether in Port Valencia or not. Among commercial broadcasters, Sky Sports, TVE, Canal 9, and Eurosport are among the European channels providing coverage. ESPN have rights in the USA at least, and Showtime Arabia too have live broadcasts lined up.
http://www.americascup.com

Olympics: XXI Olympic Winter Games
February 12-28
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

The 21st Winter Olympiad opens on Friday, February 12, and the exact details of the grand opening ceremony at Vancouver's BC Place have been kept a tightly guarded secret by the event's organizers. Tickets can be ordered from the Vancouver 2010 website and are available for $175, $550, $750 or $1100 Canadian dollars ($170, $525, $715, $1045 USD / €120, €375, €510, €745). Gates open at 2 PM with the ceremony itself starting at 6 PM and finishing by 9 PM (02:00-05:00 GMT). Skiing, skating, and sledding events start that weekend, with snowboarding and ice hockey following later in the schedule.
http://www.vancouver2010.com

Basketball: 2010 NBA All-Star Game
February 14
Arlington, Texas, USA

The annual All-Star Game takes place between two teams representing the NBA's Eastern and Western Conference. The starting line-ups are decided by public ballot, the results of which were out on January 21, while substitutes are selected via a vote from the NBA teams' head coaches. The match is being televised by the TNT network, whilst ESPN have rights for the events planned for Friday, February 12, including the Celebrity Game. Both the Friday and Saturday events are to take place at the American Airlines Center where the Dallas Mavericks play basketball, rather than at the Dallas Cowboys' stadium where the All-Star Game itself will be hosted. Tickets are from $25 (€18) to $500 (€350).
http://www.nba.com/allstar2010

Motorsports: NASCAR 52nd Daytona 500
February 14
Daytona Beach, Florida, USA

The first race of America's most popular spectator sport kicks off in Florida, with the biggest, richest and most prestigious race - the Daytona 500. Forty-three drivers will compete for the Sprint Cup. Two hundred laps of the 2.5 mile circuit at the Daytona International Speedway equate to an overall 500 laps raced for the NASCARS that stay the course until the end of what is usually at least a three-hour event with over $1.5 million (1.07 million euros) up for grabs. Thirty-five of the racers were top finishers at the conclusion of the 2009 NASCAR season with the remainder of the total 43 coming from qualifying races.
http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com

Ball sports: The Royal Shrovetide Football Match
February 16-17
Ashbourne, England

Taking place on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, the game of Shrovetide Football is closer to medieval predecessors than it is to the modern game: goals are several miles apart, the two teams are made up of unlimited numbers of both locals and visitors, and though the specially constructed match ball can be kicked or carried, just as in rugby or association football, a far more common method of ball transportation is via a massive scrum. While it was HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, who started the game recently in 2003, in 2010 it will be local legend John Harrison, who has had the honor of hand-making the Shrovetide balls for the last 20 years.
http://www.ashbourne-town.com/events/football.html

Endurance: Libyan Challenge Master Trek
February 21-23
Ghat, Libya

The Challenge is a 205 km (122 mile) race within the country of Libya, starting out from the city of Ghat and winding through the Akakus mountains. Competitors are issued just a GPS device, a map, and a few liters of water doled out at each checkpoint dotted along the course. Other than that, participants must be self-sufficient with regard to food, clothing and equipment in the harsh conditions of the labyrinthine Akakus mountain range. The Akakus's alternating rocks and dunes ensure the course becomes a disorienting, slow-burn assault through Saharan surroundings. The fastest trekkers are able to complete the race by the 30-hour mark, it's difficult even for past participants to predict who will have the physical and mental fortitude to make it to the end. Competitors' progress can be tracked via the official website as they seek to conquer, or be conquered by, just one small part of the formidable Sahara.
http://www.libyanchallenge.com

Ball sports: 11th French Open Footbag Competition
February 26-28
Stade Pierre de Coubertin, Paris, France

Organized by the RNH Footbag club and taking place a stone's throw from the home of the Paris Saint-Germain soccer team, the French Open is one of the three 2010 footbag events sanctioned by the International Footbag Players' Association. The Open consists of a full singles and doubles Footbag Net schedule, a tournament game which is like volleyball played with a footbag (a small, fist-sized ball) which is kept in play only by use of the feet rather than arms or hands. There are also freestyling competitions and a Circle Kicking tournament. Entry is free for spectators, €35 ($48) for online registrations, or €45 ($62) on site.
http://www.footbag.org

Skiing: Vasaloppet Week
February 26 - March 7
Dalarna, Sweden

The annual ski festival in Sweden encompasses a host of short, middle, and long-distance alpine races over various distances, but soon enough all attention turns to the Vasaloppet itself, the oldest of the 15 Worldloppet and a 90km ski marathon that runs its course between the towns of Sälen and Mora. Competitors must finsh the race in less than 12 hours - the average finishing time is 5h30m, and winners usually complete the distance in 4 hours for the men's class, closer to 4h45m for women. There is also a non-competitive 90 km race called the Öppet spår, and a  team relay held as part of the week's other diversions.
http://www.vasaloppet.se

Field Hockey: Men's Hockey World Cup
February 28 - March 13
New Delhi, India

The 12 competing teams are split into two pools. Pool matches take place from February 28 to March 9, and only the first and second-placed teams proceed to the semi finals on March 11. Various play-offs places are up for grabs in matches played on March 11-13. The competing nations have been selected by merit of their performance in recent continental or other qualifying hockey tournaments. Joining the hosts India in Pool B will be Australia, England, Pakistan, South Africa and Spain; in Pool A are World number 1s Germany along with Argentina, Canada, Korea, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. Tickets cost from 100 Rupees ($2.15/€1.55) for general admission for a group stage match up to 7,500R ($160/€120) for a VVIP ticket to the final.
http://www.worldhockey.org/worldcup

Rugby League: World Club Challenge
World Club Challenge
February 28
Leeds, United Kingdom

Winners of the 2009 Australian National Rugby League, Melbourne Storm, meet two-time Challenge champions and current Super League Grand Final winners, the Leeds Rhinos, at the English side's home ground Elland Road to contest the World Club Challenge trophy. Ticket prices range from £10 (€11/$16) for children up to £50 (€55/$80) for adults' pitchside seating. The official broadcast partner is Sky Sports, while domestically the BBC have access to highlights.
http://www.superleague.co.uk/tickets_event.php?id=13
http://www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk

Endurance: Tokyo Marathon
February 28
Tokyo, Japan

The Tokyo marathon's course runs from the city's Metropolitan Government Building, past the Imperial Palace and Hibiya Park, stretching south of the city center towards the Shinagawa district and back north to Asakusa before heading towards the finish at the International Exhibition Center. One of the most popular marathons in Asia, it is also a crucial part of the Japanese men's selection process for the 2010 Asian Games in China this November. Registrations for this year's marathon closed in August 2009 - those wanting to register for 2011 should from March onwards.
http://www.tokyo42195.org

Tennis: Davis Cup first round
March 5-7
Various locations: Bree in Belgium, Coquimbo in Chile, Varazdin in Croatia, Toulon in France, Moscow in Russia, Belgrade in Serbia, Logrono in Spain, Stockholm in Sweden.

The Davis Cup is for the world's top national teams, selected on the basis of past performance in both the top 16 World Group and qualification through three regional zonal groups. Only those that make it past the first round are guaranteed a berth in the following tournament. Ticket sales are controlled by each hosting venue, varying between €3 ($) for a session in Serbia up to €120 / $165 for a day's VIP pass in Russia. Further pricing details are available from the Davis Cup website. The quarter finals will be on July 9-11, venues to be confirmed.
http://www.daviscup.com

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