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All eyes are on Rio this year, with around 15,000 athletes descending on the Brazilian city for the world’s largest sporting event: the Summer Olympic & Paralympic Games. Away from the South American spotlight, the year’s sporting calendar is as busy as ever – here are 10 events to look out for.
1. Cycling: The world’s best return to Lee Valley
UCI Track Cycling World Championships – London, 2-6 March
Four years ago London’s newly built velodrome became one of the epicentres of the 2012 Olympics, the crowd noise almost launching the venue into orbit as Team GB racked up gold medals. Now the planet’s top track cyclists are back, laying down markers for the Rio games at the first World Championships to be held in the UK for eight years. Sir Bradley Wiggins and Laura Trott are among those likely to figure.
2. Cricket: Can anyone beat Sri Lanka?
ICC World Twenty20 – India, 8 March-3 April
Ben Stokes’ swashbuckling innings in Cape Town seemed more in keeping with Twenty20 batting than Test Match cricket, and he won’t have to wait long for a fitting stage for his talent. The biennial World Twenty20 arrives in India in March, with England initially up against the West Indies, South Africa and reigning champions Sri Lanka. The latter are still ranked number one in the world – but how will they fare without the talismanic presence of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene?
3. Tennis: The defence of the Davis Cup title begins
Great Britain v Japan, first round of Davis Cup – Birmingham, 4-6 March
The British team’s Murray-inspired exploits in November became one of the biggest sports stories of 2015, resulting in a first Davis Cup triumph for no less than 79 years – and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award for the current World No 2. But can they repeat their success this year? GB have been handed a home tie in the first round, drawing Japan in Birmingham. A formality on paper, but where British tennis is concerned, anything goes…
While you’re there… Splash out on a meal – Birmingham has more 2016 Michelin stars than any UK city outside London.
4. Motor Racing: Hamilton looking to cement pole position
Formula One season – 20 March-27 November
Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to become the first British driver to win three consecutive Formula One world championships when the season begins in March. But with the schedule being expanded for 2016 – partly due to a new race in Azerbaijan – will he have the stamina? On a related motorsport note, this summer also sees London’s Battersea Park witness the culmination of another Formula E season.
5. Horse Racing: Richard Johnson steps into McCoy’s shoes
Invictus Games – Orlando, 8-12 May
When the international Invictus Games were first held in 2014 – counting some 300 wounded or sick armed personnel as its competitors – the event had the full works: BBC coverage, a royal patron and a closing concert headlined by the Foo Fighters. This second edition is likely to draw just as much attention, taking place over five days at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.
6. Football: Europe’s powerhouses go head to head
Euro 2016 – France, 10 June-10 July
By the time this season’s implausibly tight Premier League race finally comes to a head in May, the European Championships will be just weeks away. The tournament takes place in France, and home advantage means the host nation stands as one of the favourites to lift the trophy – along with Germany, Spain, Belgium and, among the eternally optimistic, Roy Hodgson’s England.
7. Boxing: Fury vs Klitschko Part Two
The list of people eager to take a swing at Tyson Fury is a long one, but the man officially entrusted with the duty in 2016 is Wladimir Klitschko, the fighter who the UK’s controversial new heavyweight champion defeated in November. No date or location has yet been set for the rematch, although when it rolls around you can expect the pre-fight media hoopla to be as entertaining as the bout itself.
8. Golf: Will Europe make it four in a row?
Ryder Cup – Minnesota, 30 September-2 October
The heroics of Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and co at recent Ryder Cups means European fans have become accustomed to success. When golf’s biggest occasion returns again in the autumn, however, Davis Love III’s American team will be desperate to reverse the trend. And with current World No 1 Jordan Spieth spearheading the US charge, the event is likely to be as hard-fought as ever.
9. Rugby Union: The latest north-south global showdown
Autumn Internationals – 5 November-3 December
Last year’s World Cup was roundly dominated by southern hemisphere teams – not one Six Nations side made the semi-finals – so when New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina return to these shores in the autumn, their hosts will have a point to prove. Will the absence of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter make the All Blacks vulnerable? Can Wales finally topple Australia? And will Eddie Jones’ England prove resurgent?
10. Ice Hockey: Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate turning 100 years old
The Maple Leafs are expected to unveil both a new logo and new uniforms in time for the 2016-17 season which will be their 100th as a franchise in the National Hockey League. It's all part of the Leaf's plans to go all out in celebrating their centennial season.
While you’re there… With Cardiff, Rome, London, Paris, Toronto, Edinburgh all seeing action, you’re culturally spoiled for choice.