Sport in Europe
Europe invented most of the sports that are today loved the world over. What better place, then, to showcase our talent, achievement and millennium old tradition of competition across Europe?
UEFA European Championship
The Euros are on a par with the World Cup in the football arena. UEFA - the Union of European Football Associations - holds the contest every four years, and European national teams compete to be the greatest on the continent. The hosts or co-hosts automatically qualify, whilst the remaining teams are selected in group stages before all progress through the knock-outs. Past winners are Spain and Germany (x3), France (x2), and Italy, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia and the USSR (x1).
Every year, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy battle it out to determine the king of European rugby. Born out of the Home Nations Championship, then the Five Nations, the Six Nations has existed in its current format since 2000. All but Scotland and Italy have won the Championship trophy, awarded by a simple points system; the Triple Crown trophy also exists for the British Isles nation which defeats all of its Home neighbours. The losing team graciously receives the Wooden Spoon.
Handball is a big sport in much of Europe. The European Handball Federation was founded in 1991, and the sport has since come on leaps and bounds, the EHF now comprising 50 member federations. Norway has won the European Women's Handball Championship 7/11 times; Sweden edges France in the men's equivalent. The European Beach Handball Championship has been won the last three times by the Croatian team for men, whilst Croatia and Russia tie for women.
Le Tour de France
The Tour de France is cycling's greatest contest. Teams from across the globe compete whilst riders battle for the yellow jersey - its winner has the lowest cumulative time across all stages. Another time-based award is the white jersey, similar to the yellow but for riders under 26; points-based jerseys are major prizes too, with polka dot for leading the peloton in hill stages and green for leading all stages. Not only have 90/94 winners been European, but the Grand Départ takes place all over the continent.
European Athletics Championships
The biennial European Athletics Championships are the mainstay of the European Athletics Association. Over 1500 athletes from all of Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, Turkey and Israel compete in a number of track and field events. The USSR tops the all-time medals table, followed by the UK and East Germany. Similar events are held at the Indoor Championships, whilst the innovative Team Championships challenge joint male-female national teams to compete and progress through toughening leagues.
Every two years, Europe and the USA go head to head as our golfers compete to bring home the Ryder Cup. Since the inclusion of Europe beyond the British Isles in 1979, Team Europe has built up a convincing lead of 10 wins to America's 7 victories. For a sport regularly dismissed as dull, golf at the Ryder Cup is remarkable in its ability to stoke up passion between the two great powers and togetherness on the European side, the ring of golden stars seen in the crowds and Ode to Joy oft heard on the air.
The UEFA Champions League is watched every year by hundreds of millions of fans around the world. Clubs from the best leagues in Europe are drawn into eight groups of four; after all have met, the top two in each progress, those who were first in one group playing the runners-up in another; the remainder of the competition is a random knock-out. The most successful club to date is Real Madrid with ten wins, followed by A.C. Milan with seven and Bayern München tied with Liverpool on five.