Weekly sports agenda: the Dakar Rally, Africa Cup of Nations, Australian Open, and Winter X Games

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Among major upcoming sporting events: The Dakar Rally hurtles through Argentina and Chile, sporting superstars head to Angola for soccer's Africa Cup of Nations, the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the 2010 ATP Tour is hosted by Melbourne, Australia, and the Winter X Games tournament hits the slopes in Colorado, USA.

Motor sport: 32nd Dakar Rally
January 1-16
Buenos Aires, Argentina

The 9,000 km race for both cars and motorbikes started in Buenos Aires on New Year's Day, winding its way around Argentina and into Chile, across the dry Atacama desert before it finishes back in the capital over a fortnight later.

Tennis: Hopman Cup XXII Final
January 9
Perth, Australia

The Hopman Cup is an international mixed singles and doubles invitational tournament for teams of two. Each team's men play each other, as do the women, and then both pairs match up for mixed doubles. Andy Murray and his tennis partner Laura Robson meet María Sánchez and Tommy Robredo in the final on Saturday, January 9. Premium tickets cost $105 AUD ($97/€67), though seats with more restricted views are up to half that.

Soccer: Africa Cup of Nations
January 10-31
Various locations, Angola

Many European teams will have to go without key players as Africa welcomes them back for the Cup of Nations every two years. This time Angola hosts, and four cities including the capital Lubango present the 16 African national teams who have made it through a two-year qualification. Tickets are on sale in branches of the national banks BPC (Banco de Poupança e Crédito) and BAI (Banco Africano de Investimentos), and matches are to be broadcast on a variety of channels including Eurosport, Orange Sport, and via the MyAfricanFootball website.
Tickets: Standard tickets from 250 Kwanzas (€2/$3) to 1040 Kz (€8/$12); hospitality boxes from 35,000 Kz (€273/$392) to 50,000 Kz (€390/$560).

Tennis: Australian Open
January 18-31
Melbourne, Australia

The first tennis Grand Slam tournament of 2010 marks the comeback of former World #1 Justine Henin, whilst Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams return to Melbourne in defense of their 2009 titles. The official website itself is staying up to date with competitors by corralling all their official twitter updates for easy access to the public.
Tickets: From AUD $20 (€13/$18) for an evenings-only ground pass to AUD $289 (€180/$260) for the final.

Motor sport: Monte Carlo Rally
January 20-22
Monte Carlo, Monaco

The Monte Carlo Rally is the first in the 2010 season of the 12-round Intercontinental Rally Challenge that takes place in South American and Mediterranean countries, with a few stages in Scotland and Italy in the second half of the year. The Monte Carlo stages were introduced in 2009 after it left the World Rally Championship itinerary but remain as tough as ever. As with many motor rallies, spectators can line the route at supervised points, and those at Monte Carlo have been known to throw extra snow and ice onto the course surface.

Cycling: UCI Track Cycling World Cup Classics
January 22-24
Beijing, China

The Beijing meet is the fourth and final stage of the 2009-10 World Cup tour which started in the United Kingdom on October 30 and since then has visited Australia in November and Colombia in December. After two closely matched opening rounds, the German team arrive in Beijing with a comfortable lead over the rest of the field. Australia and Great Britain are in close contention for 2nd place, the Netherlands and Lithuania look comfortable in 4th and 5th, while the gap between 6th and 10th is extremely tight. The final round is being held on the Siberian white wood track of Laoshan Velodrome, built for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Swimming: World Winter Swimming Championships
January 22-24
Bled, Slovenia

Over 600 participants from 20 nations will be taking part in the WWSCs in Lake Bled, in a series of competitive and non-competitive races. As well as breaststroke, freestyle, and relay races, there is a special endurance swim and a performance category scheduled to round off the championships on Sunday, January 24. As such, the WWSCs serve as a celebration of cold-water swimming and a precursor to the Winter World Masters which take place in Bled the following week.
Entry fee: €30 for individuals, €100 for teams

Athletics: Winter World Masters Games
January 25-31
Bled, Slovenia

The World Masters differ from the Olympics in two major ways. Firstly, anyone can register for participation, as long as they are over 25 years old. Secondly, national representation is not permitted: teams must be multinational. The World Masters pull in athletes of all ages, shapes and sizes, and the Winter World Masters are no exception. Seventy-year-old gymnast Miroslav Cerar, alpine skiers Christian Mayer (38), Jure Košir (37) and Urška Hrovat (34), and pro cyclist Tadej Valjavec (32) are among the Slovenian Olympians joining amateur athletes and fun-lovers alike in a variety of sports such as ice hockey, biathlon, ski-jumping, cross country and alpine skiing.

Extreme sports: Winter X Games
January 28-31
Aspen, Colorado, USA

The Winter X Games, a 1997 off-shoot from ESPN's 1995, moves into its 14th year with an event that offers free entry to the public and adds the Ski SuperPipe High Air and Snowmobile Knock Out events to its roster that includes the now-standard extreme-style snowboarding and skiing competitions. Defending SuperPipe snowboard champ Torah Bright has already stated her intention of completing a Double Cork trick, turning a full 900° in an off-axis spin. Meanwhile, last year's snowmobile gold medallist Joe Parsons has combined a breathtaking backwards-landed backflip and 180° spin in a bid to retain his title.

14th Annual Polar Bear Plunge
January 30, 12:00 ET
Sandy Point State Park, Annapolis, Maryland, USA

The main event at 'Plungapalooza', a family day out of music and entertainment, the Polar Bear Plunge is an annual charity event supported by the Maryland State Police that sees up to 15,000 participants fling themselves into the cold waters of Sandy Point Bay for the greater good. There are three plunges throughout the afternoon, with proceeds supporting the Maryland Special Olympics. Prizes on offer for reaching additional fundraising targets from $500 to $3500 and beyond and also for the best plunging costume.
Plunging fee: $50 minimum pledge

Sailing: Extreme40 Sailing Series Asia Final Stage
February 1-5
Muscat, Oman

The coastal capital of the Emirate of Oman hosts the third and final stage of the Extreme Sailing Series. The Extreme40 sail boats are bigger and faster versions of the Olympic standard multihulled catamarans, capable of travelling at speeds of 40 knots (45mph, 75kph, or 20 meters per second), and designed by the Frenchman Yves Londay, a 1992 Olympic gold medallist. Muscat will see 18 6-team races between February 1 and 5, and while home team and European series champions Oman Sail Masirah top the series leaderboard going into the final stage, 6 points for a stage win means that 2nd placed BT and the 3rd placed China Team both have an outside chance of nicking the trophy.

Rugby Union: IRB Sevens World Series, New Zealand
February 5-6
Wellington, New Zealand

New Zealand, having won both previous tournaments in the Sevens World Series, and whose player Sherwin Stowers heads the individual tries table with 15, take the series to their homeland for the fourth in an eight-stop schedule that runs through the end of May. Despite their home advantage, New Zealand have 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 guest nations for the New Zealand leg and also find themselves in the same group, while Canada, Papua New Guinea and Tonga are the other guests completing the 16-team round.