5 Big Sporting Dates For 2018

Written by on December 31, 2017

1) Football: World Cup
Russia 14 June – 15 July

World Cup Russia 2018 has ticked all the boxes so far: disputes over alleged corruption, human rights abuse, unchecked domestic racism, homophobia and fan violence – while the tournament organiser, Vitaly Mutko, ended 2017 being accused by the IOC of leading “an unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport” via state-sponsored doping, and stepped down. He denies wrongdoing. It’s a lot for Qatar 2022 to live up to. Vladimir Putin says overseas media should lay off and report the bigger picture. “We will bring closer the big and friendly football family – the family that values sports, friendship and fair competition.”

The matches should have a familiar feel, too: Germany and Brazil favourites; England trying to handle the impossible pressure of an easy-on-paper group; and Iceland making their debut, ready to humiliate anyone who takes them lightly. They start against Argentina in Group D. “When you think of a World Cup you think of Argentina and Brazil,” says their coach, Heimir Hallgrimsson. “So for us, this is a little bit romantic.”

2) Tennis: Australian Open
Melbourne Park 15-28 January

Plenty to look forward to in Australia: the return of Serena Williams four months after giving birth; the chance of her facing Maria Sharapova, who commented on Williams’s “thick arms and thick legs” in her 2017 memoir; the prospect of top men’s talent including Andy Murray returning from injury to stop Roger Federer winning a 20th grand slam; and some rule changes. Among the innovations: a new Bernard Tomic-inspired rule which fines players who retire or perform “below professional standards”, and more trials for the 25-second shot clock, designed to discourage slow serving. Federer, who turns 37 in 2018, isn’t a fan. “If you want a great show, it’s not possible with the shot clock. If you don’t, of course it’s a great improvement.”

3) Football: Return of the Premiership January 23rd

Once upon a time when it was Scottish League Division One, and even in the early days of the Scottish Premier League, our top Scottish clubs ploughed on through snow and sleet, and even games on the 1st of January, without missing a beat but these days a winter break is put in place for our Premiership.

While the other three SPFL divisions carry on with business as usual our top clubs go to sunnier climates and training camps that are a long way away from Elgin on a January weekend or Cowdenbeath on a winter Wednesday.

When the fun starts again [ and there is nothing to stay we won’t still be knee deep in snow at the end of Jan ] Celtic will look to continue their march to the title with Rangers attempting to put foundations in place that will stop the bhoys getting 10 Scottish League titles in a row.

Aberdeen will look to cement their place as second best in Scotland currently while Ross County [ a Highland League side remember before their admission to the Scottish League in the mid 1990’s ] will start the fight against relegation with Hamilton Accies [ they always seem to get mentioned by the press in this bit ] and a clutch of other sides trying to avoid the dreaded relegation play off.

4) Winter Olympics

Pyeongchang, South Korea 9-25 February

Besides the Russian doping ban, the @realDonaldTrump factor and the fears that conditions will be too cold for spectators to handle (the £44.1m main stadium has no roof, leading to six fans at a recent concert there suffering hypothermia) – there’s a feeling the Winter Games should produce some old-fashioned upbeat stories, too. Chief among them is Nigeria’s women’s bobsleigh team, who need to maintain their top-40 ranking until 14 January to seal their nation’s first Winter Olympics appearance. There’s talk of film rights and they’ve already made one appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show – Ellen-fan Ngozi Onwumere telling the production team: “I hope you have an emergency room close by because when I meet Ellen … My heart … I might scream occasionally.” Also hoping to make headlines are the talented Team GB, with “10 to 12 realistic medal prospects”. They won four at Sochi 2014.

5) Athletics: Commonwealth Games

Gold Coast, Australia 4-15 April

Scotland and Glasgow 2014 especially handed the baton to OZ for this new year’s event but England – aiming to defend their place above the hosts on top of the medal table – aren’t going under-equipped: 400 competitors and 250 support staff across 18 sports are the largest team to represent the country at an overseas sporting event. “It’s not cheap,” admits a spokesman. The 75-strong athletics team includes the 2012 Olympic long jump champion, Greg Rutherford, the 100m and 4x100m Commonwealth silver medallist Adam Gemili, the heptathlete and high jumper Katarina Johnson-Thompson and the British 100m record holder, Dina Asher-Smith, who says: “We’ve got so many medal contenders we could sweep events. Having the Commonwealth Games so early in the season really pushes you on: there’s no excuse not to do every single rep and every single step.” 70 nations are competing, with beach volleyball and women’s rugby sevens included for the first time.

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