This weekend sees the Formula One teams, fans and staff arrive in the principality of Monaco for the Grand Prix that everyone looks out for when the schedule first arrives at the start of the season. The Monaco GP isn’t alone in its status however, with plenty of sporting events around the world holding similar levels of grandeur, so we’ve picked the best five that are usually only ever experienced by a lucky few.
Centre Court At Wimbledon
Just above the entry to Centre Court lies the words of Britain’s official ‘Poet of the Empire’, Rudyard Kipling, saying “If you can meet with triumph and disaster / and you treat those two imposters the same.” Like your mum with the ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ wall-art she has on the living room wall, quotes on walls are classy no matter the environment you’re in, and at Wimbledon, that’s nothing but the start of how classy your experience can get.
The Royal Box is always a popular quick hit for the BBC’s coverage, with esteemed guests joining the likes of Prince William and Kate in the box, while David Beckham sports a new haircut and gets the usual reaction of disbelief on Twitter that he’s 50-something years old. As a fan, you can get the chance to sit amongst the world’s most famous humans and treat yourself to the standard strawberries and cream alongside a glass of Pimms. The sun usually makes a rare outing during the event so with the retractable roof down, there’d be nothing more grand than sitting in Centre Court alongside royalty watching the world’s finest tennis players.
The lack of adverts around the place really hits home how traditions still live on at the All-England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, and you might even catch a glimpse of resident eagle Rufus, who sits around the place scaring away any pigeons that threaten to ruin the occasion. Wimbledon also remains one of the very few events where premium ticketing is only available on the day, making the famous queue an event in itself.
If you want to attend, it’s said that tickets are cheapest towards the end of the second week, where the initial excitement of queuing has passed and the big stars are few and far between.
The Masters At Augusta National
Augusta National is a fantastic place to watch golf. Although it may not be the home of golf, it is the only location of a major championship every year as The Masters never leaves the course like the Open, US Open and PGA Championship do every year.
The course is in one of the USA’s ‘Garden Spots’ where the land is so fertile that you could drop any seed into the earth and it would grow. Due to the low number of competitors, you can see the ground staff outnumber the golfers by day three as they cut around bunkers with scissors and tend the greens hourly.
The exclusivity of the Masters is always something that’s talked about by people lucky enough to go. The official broadcast is only allowed to refer to the attending fans as ‘Patrons’, and there are only 40,000 of them during the competition. Demand is so high that another 10,000 pile in on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and the tournament makes thousands in merchandise sales during the practice rounds.
The rules for patrons are strictly enforced as politely as possible. You won’t be slide tackled for running but told that only walking is permitted. Mobile phones are to be turned off and you will be removed from site if you dare bring one out of your pocket to film Bryson DeChambeau trying too hard to not end up in the water. Only golfers, caddies and rules officials are allowed past the rope where usually photographers and sign-bearers are allowed to follow golfers at other venues.
Classy events sometimes break the mould as well, and The Masters is no exception. A beer at Augusta is $3 as a standard, or £2.40 at the current exchange rate. Most food is also around the same price and tickets for this major are around $50 per round, a fee lower than any other major tournament.
The Grand National At Aintree Racecourse
Despite its proximity to both a KFC fast-food chain and a Toby Carvery, Aintree Racecourse reeks of affluence. The foundations of the course date back to 1829 when Lord Sefton and Waterloo Hotel owner, William Lynn decided to build a racecourse to bring flats racing to Merseyside.
Alongside the racetrack nowadays is an equestrian centre and a nine-hole golf course, where punters can catch views of the grandstand while they tee off. The value around Aintree is massive, with over 500 million viewers of the main attraction, The Grand National, every year and over £250 million placed in bets.
Notoriously difficult, the Grand National was designed to ‘test a horse’s courage’ and sees the best trainers' horses compete for a £1 million prize fund, the highest in European horse racing.
Celebrities and royalty are often seen in the main stand, with many of them holding stakes in the horses on show. Over 70,000 racegoers attend every year on the Saturday and it’s always a superb show with everyone being suited and booted. Whether it’s a day out with the mates or a day of making money, Grand National day is always fantastic.
Boxing At Madison Square Garden
This is slightly different, as the event changes but the location doesn’t. Madison Square Garden is the home to many sports, mainly Ice Hockey and Basketball for the New York Rangers & Knicks respectively, but it is the modern spiritual home of boxing.
Before the bright lights of Las Vegas, MSG was the mecca for boxing and arguably still is despite the success of venues on the West Coast. Most recently, Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano headlined a historic night there as the first women to top a MSG-hosted bill, and there’s so many more historic nights. The ‘Fight of the Century’ between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier took place at The Garden in 1971, Lennox Lewis somehow drew against Evander Holyfield in 1999, Rocky Marciano savaged Joe Louis back in the fifties and Anthony Joshua was handed a shock defeat on his American soil debut by Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr back in 2019.
There’s no doubt that when the ring arrives in midtown Manhattan, an epic night follows. It’s the only indoor arena with a concave ceiling that makes it sound electric and the CEO of MSG, Hank Ratner, described it as ‘a hall of fame on its own.’
For the most affluent visitors, a private VIP-suite is available with your own personal bartender serving you as you gain access to over 180 events for two people. Very classy.
The Monaco Grand Prix In Monte Carlo
The most exclusive event there is. The Monaco Grand Prix is ridiculous on face value. There’s rich and famous people that have reached the highest social status you thought imaginable and then you have an even higher echelon of fame where you might not have a clue who they are, but they have more pounds than you have atoms in your body. They’re usually the ones seen in the paddock being shamelessly picked apart by the legendary Martin Brundle before retreating to their multi-million dollar yachts parked on Port Hercules.
Tickets are relatively accessible for the general public if you want to see the first days there. You can go on Friday for less than €100 a ticket, however that’s merely a seat in one of the many grandstands, often without a screen so you can’t see all the action. The best place to be is in F1’s ‘Paddock Club’ hospitality option, where you can meet the stars, walk along the pit lane and have a guided lap of the track. You can even touch the trophy and have a picture pretending that Michael Masi let you have an extra lap to beat your great rival for the title.
Like the track, the race holds royalty to the motorsport world as well. The Grand Prix is part of the Triple Crown, the other two races being the Indianapolis 500 and 24 hours of Le Mans, with Graham Hill being the only driver to ever win all three races. Royalty off track comes in the form of Albert II, who will be attending the race after revealing his ties to West Ham just a few weeks ago.
*18+ | BeGambleAware