Weekly sports agenda: Winter Olympics, medieval football, field hockey world cup

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The Independent Online

Among major upcoming sporting events: the Winter Olympic Games starts with a grand opening ceremony, a medieval version of football takes place in England, and the field hockey World Cup is in Delhi, India.

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. Last year's champions Ireland are looking strong, while England and France also won their opening matches. Tickets are available from each host nation's Rugby Union, linked to from the official website's Championship Info section.

Rugby Union: IRB Sevens World Series
February 13-14, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
March 19-21, Adelaide, Australia.

After playing the fourth leg of the World Series tour in USA on February 13 and 14, the twelve core national sides are again joined by four guest nations in Australia, March 19-21. Tickets for the Las Vegas event cost between $35 (€25) for one-day upper seats and up to $500 (€355) for two-day premier lounge hospitality. The Australian event is between AUD 17 (€11/$15) for general admission on the first night to AUD 200 (€130/$178) for a three-day family pass.

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 (€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.

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 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).

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.

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.

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. Trekkers' 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.

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

The French Open is one of the three 2010 footbag events sanctioned by the International Footbag Players' Association. It 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. Players and teams can register via the Footbag website.

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 9 0km team relay held as part of the week's other diversions.

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

The twelve 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. 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.

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.

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.

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.
Tickets: Ticket sales are controlled by each hosting venue, varying between €3 ($) for a session in Serbia up to €120 / $165 for a days' VIP pass in Russia. Further pricing details are available from the Davis Cup website's tie previews.

Endurance: Snowshoe Marathon
March 6
Pittsfield, Vermont, USA

One of the Peak Race series, the Snowshoe Marathon enforces a 10 hour completion limit and 4 laps of un-groomed 6.5 mile (10.5km) trail to circuit. The prize fund is $700, with $200 going to men's and women's first place finishers. The Vertical Ice Climbing Enthusiasts team will also be on hand to premier a new film about ice climbing in New England. There is also a half-marathon available, a "fun" run for those wanting to give the sport a try, and a gruelling 100 mile variant for the truly determined.
Registration: For $75, each marathon entrant is guaranteed a beanie hat and a vital post-race meal as well as a chance to take on the course. The 100 mile, 15 lap event is $125.

Endurance: Midlands Ultra Triathlon
March 7
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

The Midlands Ultra is a 1.8km swim, 60km road cycle, and a 15km on-road / offroad run based in the Midmar Dam Nature Reserve, about an hour's drive away from Durban. There is also a sprint category, with distances a third of the Ultra. The Midlands Ultra is two weeks before the South African Triathlon Championships and six weeks before the Ironman South Africa, so for some hardened athletes it will be all part of training for even tougher events. All funds raised go towards Wildlands Conservation Trust projects.
Registration: R410 (€39/$54) for the ultra or R190 (€18/$25) for the sprint before February 26. R460 (€44/$60) or R240 (€23/$31) on the day.

Odd sports: Westpac Birdman Rally
March 7
Melbourne, Australia

The Birdman Rally, part of the Melbourne city festival that runs March 5-8, is an annual occurrence, as men (and women) line up in various costumes and contraptions and attempt to fly across the Yarra river. The event is free to enter and free to watch.
More information available at ThatsMelbourne.com

Extreme sports: Winter X Games Europe
March 10-12
Tignes, France

The Winter X Games come to Europe for the first time, and the French ski resort of Tignes will be hosting. ESPN, the creators of the X Games, have teamed up with French TV network Canal+. Superpipes and slopestyle competitions for skiers and snowboarders will be accompanied by a snowmobile freestyle demo. While ESPN and Canal+ are expected to carry the majority of televised events, with some footage available from the official site, those wishing to spectate from the snowy slopes are advised to check Tignes' Winter X Games site.

Athletics: IAAF World Indoor Championships
March 12-14
Doha, Qatar

With events in track racing, long and high jump, shot put and pole vault among others, the IAAF World Indoor Championships occur every two years, in tandem with the Outdoor version.
Tickets: From QR10 (€2 / $2.75)