Catch the main event – and see the world

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Sports tourism is booming and this is a bumper year, not just for South Africa. Alex Miller takes a grandstand seat

The World Cup may be moving towards its climax in South Africa but there are plenty of other sporting events and tournaments competing for attention in 2010, all hosted in cities and locations that are well worth a visit, too.

The tour operators offering packages to sports events run slick operations to ensure that you, and they, make the most of your money. For sports tourism is the fastest growing sector of the global travel and tourism industry. In 2008, it accounted for $600bn (£405bn), or 10 per cent of the international tourism market. This year, travel experts predict that will rise to 14 per cent.

Just remember to get the real deal. Only a select number of companies are ever appointed official travel partners for the major sporting events, so always buy through an official agent – check it has a special licence number to be sure.

For motorsports enthusiasts, one of the most exciting races on the current Formula 1 calendar takes place at Sao Paulo's Interlagos circuit, home of the Brazilian Grand Prix. This is a race where champions are often crowned because it comes towards the end of the season.

If you fancy heading off to the sun in early November to witness the skills of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, savour the fanatical atmosphere of the race and the delights of Brazil, Grandstand Motor Sports (0845 375 0302; grandstandmotorsports.co.uk) is offering a range of packages. For example, it has a three-night stay in Rio de Janeiro, including a city tour and a trip to the statue of Christ the Redeemer, followed by a long weekend in Sao Paulo to watch the practice sessions, qualifiers and the race itself. Afterwards, there's the chance to wind down near Iguassu Falls for two nights. Prices start from £2,549 per person. Race tickets are not included in the price and vary from £165 to £775.

For horse-racing fans, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in France, Europe's richest and most prestigious horse race, draws champions from England, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy. Events International (01432 263263; eventsinter national.co.uk), the official hospitality provider, is offering packages from £349 per person.

Devotees of athletics should head to New Delhi for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in October, when India hosts the games for the first time. Sportsworld (01235 555 844; sports world.co.uk), the official general sales agent in England, offers two packages.

Its "escorted" package (with pre-selected sporting events) starts from £1,695 per person and includes four nights' B&B at the city's five-star Grand Hotel, selected event tickets, airport and event transfers, welcome drinks, a half-day tour with lunch, buffet dinner, farewell brunch and official merchandise. There is also a more economical "leisure" package available (events not pre-selected), starting at £710 per person.

To see England's cricketers battle to retain The Ashes on Australian soil in the autumn, check out Gullivers Sports Travel (01684 293175; gullivers travel.co.uk). An officially licensed travel operator for the series, it has packages starting at £4,995 per person for its fully escorted "Possum Tour". This includes official gold category match tickets for the first and second tests, return flights with Qantas, 16 nights' four-star accommodation, domestic flights and airport/ hotel/match transfers.

There are also optional extras available to explore the country's famous destinations, such as the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru.

Meanwhile, Tailor Made Travel (0845 4568 011; tailor-made.co.uk) has a lead-in package price for the third test in Perth. Prices start at £3,750 per person, based on two sharing, including a seven-night Perth cricket package with gold tickets, a three-night Singapore stopover, including airport transfers and breakfast, a three-night Christmas stopover in Hong Kong and return international flights with Qantas.

Also in Australia, the Melbourne Cup horse race celebrates its 150th anniversary in November, for which Sport Abroad (08456 803 086; sportabroad .co.uk) has a variety of packages.

Closer to home, The Open golf championship, held this year at St Andrews in Scotland, will mark its 150th anniversary when the players tee-off later this month. All eyes will be on Tiger Woods to see if he can shake off the distractions resulting from recent off-course revelations.

Sportsworld (01235 555844; sportsworld.co.uk) is offering official hospitality with prices starting at £299 per person for the Scores Hotel package, based just 20 metres from the historic 18th hole, overlooking the spectacular St Andrews Bay.

The package also includes an admission ticket, continental breakfast, pre-luncheon champagne reception, three-course lunch with wine, complimentary bar, afternoon tea and car park passes.

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