Many cities have regular big cultural and sporting events, which draw tens of thousands of participants and lock up accommodation and transport; but it’s generally just for a day or so. Those listed here are really really big events, which may draw millions, locking up not just the city but much of the country over an extended period. If you aim to be there, especially as an independent traveller, you must plan over a year in advance. If you’re not interested in the event itself, come another time, perhaps a few months later when the place has returned to normal but all the new infrastructure and amenities are there for you. What you can’t do is dabble, going to the area thinking you might sort-of drop in on the event, as mega-crowds will be ahead of you.

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Paris Olympics of 2024: it’s not too soon to plan

23 July – 8 Aug 2021: Summer Olympics (XXXII), Tokyo. These are the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with no spectators permitted.

4 – 20 Feb 2022: Winter Olympics (XXIV), Beijing, with mountain events at Xiaohaituo 90 km away and Zhangjiakou 220 km out. The Beijing 2022 Games’ motto is “Joyful Rendezvous Upon Pure Ice and Snow” which is good to know as natural snowfall there is unreliable. (The 2026 event is in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy.)

1 – 24 July 2022: Tour de France is the world’s premier on-road cycle race. The first three days are around Copenhagen, then it moves across France to culminate in Paris. This is a huge event because of the size of the sporting and commercial entourages, and the roving audience. Especially in the mountains with only a single connecting road, whole areas become locked in / out, and even fire trucks struggle for access. Giro in Italy and Vuelta in Spain are locally disruptive but on nothing like this scale. The route for the following year’s Tour will be announced shortly after the conclusion of this one.

7 – 12 July 2022 (1443 AH): Hajj in Mecca. The key pilgrimage in Islam, drawing some 2 million registered pilgrims; there may be another million who live in the region and don’t need visas to attend. Most also visit Medina.

Zhangjiakou bus heading for a “Joyful Rendezvous Upon Pure Ice and Snow”

21 Nov – 18 Dec 2022: FIFA World Cup Finals, Qatar. This is the top soccer tournament for men’s national teams. (The 2026 Finals are in USA, Canada and Mexico.)

26 June – 1 July 2023: (1444 AH): Hajj in Mecca – because it follows a lunar calendar, it falls 10 / 11 days earlier each year.

14 June – 14 July 2024: UEFA Euro Finals across Germany. 24 national soccer teams will compete, playing in Berlin, Munich, Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Leipzig and Frankfurt. Just over a million attended the covid-blighted 2020 Finals (postponed to 2021) so the audience of 2024 will probably be much greater. Fans know where their own team will play in the early stages, but the varied fortunes of the tournament mean they don’t know their later venues. So this creates a huge travelling army trying to book last-minute accommodation and transport to cities the far side of the country.

1 – 24 July 2023: Tour de France will start in Bilbao, the onward route is tba.

26 July – 11 Aug 2024: Summer Olympics (XXXIII), Paris. The concept is that Olympics are hosted by a city, not a country. The reality is that they embroil the nation, especially with such a central metropolis and transport hub as Paris. There are also training camps and events such as equestrian sports and sailing based in other areas. (The 2028 Summer Olympics are in Los Angeles.)

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