Where once the gladiators of Rome held sway, today it's modern sports stars who thrill spectators across the globe. Sports holidays are very much in vogue, with travellers at home and abroad eager to combine a trip to an exciting destination with some world-class sporting action.
Whether it's home-grown heroics or a holiday in a far-flung locale, nothing beats the roar of the crowd and the thrill of the contest, with several major sports events set to take place over the coming months.
Cricket World Cup
February 14-March 29
It may begin on Valentine's Day but there will be little love to go around when the 2015 Cricket World Cup gets under way. Staged in 14 venues across tournament co-hosts Australia and New Zealand, the business end of the competition takes place in mid-March, when the knock-out stages kick off.
Defending champions India broke a run of three straight Australian tournament wins when they beat Sri Lanka on home soil in the 2011 final, and Australia will be desperate to make amends at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 29. Standing in their way will be some of cricket's genuine heavyweights, with England, South Africa and Pakistan all expected to put up a stern tilt for the title.
The Australian Formula One Grand Prix
The roar of the cars may have diminished with last year's switch to quieter V6 engines but the thrill of watching a Formula One car scream around a corner is as exhilarating as ever. No doubt that's why the Australian Formula One Grand Prix remains one of Australia's most popular sports events, with more than 100,000 fans set to pack the stands at the Albert Park street circuit in Melbourne on race day.
Local hero Daniel Ricciardo will be a prime focus among a star-studded field, with 2014 race winner Nico Rosberg, fan favourite Lewis Hamilton and multiple world champion Sebastian Vettel also set to take their places on the grid.
Not so much a golf championship as it is a national institution, The Masters is perhaps golf's most hallowed event. Held annually at the Augusta National Golf Club in the deep south of the United States, the Masters' many traditions – not least the awarding of the fabled green jacket to the winner – make it one of world sport's most recognisable events.
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So popular is The Masters that tickets are available by application only, with many spectators finding practice round tickets easier to come by than those for the four competition rounds. Those lucky enough to secure admission pack the galleries of one of golf's most iconic courses, where lush greens and shady trees line the fairways of this historic Georgia venue.
Called 'the most exciting two minutes in sport' by those who frequent the impressive grandstands of Churchill Downs in the US city of Louisville, the Kentucky Derby is undoubtedly one of the world's great thoroughbred horse races.
A one-and-a-quarter mile barnstormer that takes place in front of some of the largest crowds in American sports, the Derby is renowned for its decidedly southern traditions. The mint julep is the official race beverage, while race winners are presented with a lavish garland of red roses, in what is one of the more genteel occasions on the American sporting calendar.
European Rugby Champions Cup Final
When it comes to rugby union, there are few more iconic venues than the legendary Twickenham. Located on the leafy outskirts of London, this 80,000-capacity pantheon will be packed for the final of the European Rugby Champions Cup.
Conceived as a replacement for the now defunct Heineken Cup, the new-look European Rugby Champions Cup pits the Top 20 European club rugby teams from Europe's Six Nations head-to-head. The final is the perfect precursor to Rugby World Cup 2015, which kicks off at the same venue just four months later.