Reaching for glory: The most prestigious sporting events in the world
From bragging rights to world dominance, athletes aspire to reach the pinnacle of their sport. Take a look at some of the most prestigious sporting events. Shown here: Spain celebrates winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa against the Netherlands.
Getty ImagesJamie McDonald
The World Cup
The World Cup only comes around every four years but it is by far the most popular global sporting event. Much of the world grinds to a halt as 32 nations battle to be crowned World Cup champions. Sometimes the battle just to qualify for the tournament will put nations on edge. Shown here: Spain's midfielder Andres Iniesta (R) shoots and scores a goal during extra time the 2010 FIFA football World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain on July 11, 2010 at Soccer City stadium in Soweto, suburban Johannesburg.
AFP/Getty ImagesPIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU
The Olympic Games
Yulia Lipnitskaya (figure skating), Gabby Douglas (gymnastics), Usian Bolt (track and field), Bode Miller (Alpine skiing) and Michael Phelps (swimming). Legends are born at the Winter and Summer Olympic games. Athletes from hundreds of countries compete in dozens of discplines, some just honored to be inviited to the games and all dreaming of a gold medal.
Tennis has impressive tournaments all over the world but The Championships at Wimbledon is steeped in history and tradition. The tournament has been held at the All England Club in London since 1877. It is the only Major still played on grass. Shown here: Andy Murray celebrates winning the Championship point during the final match against Novak Djokovic on July 7, 2013.
Getty ImagesJulian Finney
The Tour de France
It's a cyclist's dream to wear the maillot jaune (yellow jersey) as they around the Arc de Triomph in the final stage of the Tour de France. The first Tour de France was staged in 1903. The modern editions of the Tour de France consist of 21 day-long segments (stages) over a 23-day period and cover around 2,000 miles. Shown here: France's Sylvain Chavanel (C) rides in the pack in the 211 km and twelfth stage of the 2011 Tour de France cycling race run between Cugnaux and the 2.500 metres ski resort of Luz-Ardiden, southwestern France, on July 14 , 2011.
AFP/Getty ImagesLIONEL BONAVENTURE
The Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Derby might be the brightest gem in the Triple Crown. It's a social event as much as it is a horse race. The race had its innaugural run in 1875 at Churchill Downs and has been held every year since. Shown here: Jockey Joel Rosario riding Orb celebrates after winning the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Getty ImagesAndy Lyons
Monaco Grad Prix
Race cars have been speeding around the curves of Monaco since 1929. It is perhaps the most demanding Formula One course on the circuit. The Grand Prix has also become a place to see and be seen. Some of the wealthiest in the world come to Monte Carlo to partake in the festivities surrounding the race. Shown here: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP leads his team mate Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP and the rest of the field round the hairpin at the start of the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix on May 26, 2013.
Getty ImagesBryn Lennon
The Stanley Cup Playoffs
Professional hockey has gone through a variety of incarnations but the Stanley Cup has always been the prize at the end. Since 1927, no non-NHL teams have played for the cup. It has been a best-of-seven playoff since 1939. Shown here: Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien of the Chicago Blackhawks share the Stanley Cup after the Blackhawks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in overtime to win the Stanley Cup in Game Six of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final on June 9, 2010.
Getty ImagesBruce Bennett
The Super Bowl
The entire American football season comes down to one Sunday, the Super Bowl. In 2014, Super Bowl XLVIII became the most-watched American television program in history. The game has turned into an entertainment specatacle with A-list half-time performances and big speding on advertising. The Super Bowl was first played in 1967. Shown here: Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates with the VInce Lombardi trophy after the Ravens won 34-31 against the San Francisco 49ers during Super Bowl XLVII on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
Rugby League World Cup
The Rugby League World Cup tournament is one of the largest international sporting events in the world, surpassed in scale only by the World Cup, the Olympics, and the Tour de France. First held in 1987, it earned a cumulative world television audience of 300 million, by 2007 the world television audience of reached 4 billion. Shown here: Australian captain Cameron Smith (C) of celebrates with team mates and the trophy after the Rugby League World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia.
Getty ImagesPaul Thomas
The World Series
Baseball may be America's pastime but the MLB championships are big enough to be called the World Series. After a few different formats, what we know as the modern World Series began in 1903. The best- of-seven series is played in October and is aslo known as the Fall Classic. Shown here: David Ross and Koji Uehara of the Boston Red Sox celebrate defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2013 World Series at Fenway Park on Wednesday, October 30, 2013.
MLB Photos via Getty ImagesBrad Mangin
The NBA Finals
What better way to crown the king of the court than a seven game series. Since 1947, the NBA Finals have determined the top dog in professional basketball. Like many professional sports playoffs, sometimes the hardest thing is just to get to the finals. Shown here: LeBron James of the Miami Heat attempts a shot against Danny Green of the San Antonio Spurs during Game Seven of the 2013 NBA Finals on June 20, 2013.
NBAE/Getty ImagesAndrew D. Bernstein
The Indianapolis 500
The Indianapolis 500 is billed as "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," and ranks up there as one of the top motor sports events in the world. The inaugural running of the race was held in 1911. The home of Indy 500 is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is considered to be the largest sporting venue in the world with an official capacity of more than 257,000. If you win the 200 lap race, be prepared to swig a bottle of milk, a tradition started in 1936. Of course, modern drivers are offered their choice of whole, 2% or skim. Shown here: Drivers race under the green flag during the Indy 500 on May 29, 2011.