How Wales became a magnet for major sports events

The European Cup in front of the Millennium Stadium
The European Cup will be up for grabs at Millennium Stadium in 2017

Following news of Uefa's decision to award Cardiff the chance to host the 2017 Uefa Champions League final, we look back at other major events that have taken place in Wales in recent times.

It is the latest in a series of major national and international sports events which have been attracted to Wales since the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

The list includes the Ryder Cup, FA Cup finals, an Ashes cricket Test and one-day internationals and the Rugby League Challenge Cup.

And with Cardiff due to stage the World Half Marathon championship in 2016 and the Rugby World Cup returning for eight matches in Cardiff this autumn, the influx of sports fans to south east Wales shows little sign of abating.

So how did it all come about?

Investing in venues

The key has been the development of sports venues - notably the Millennium Stadium and cricket's Swalec Stadium in Cardiff, and the Ryder Cup course at the Celtic Manor just outside Newport.

The Welsh Rugby Union's showpiece city centre stadium was built at a cost of £121m for the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

The bid team pose with the Women's and Men's Champions' League trophies in Cardiff
Attracting events to Wales has involved a collaboration between national and local government, plus sports governing bodies. Cardiff City Council leader Phil Bale, FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford, FAW president Trefor Lloyd Hughes, Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones and WRU group chief executive Roger Lewis

The timing was fortuitous, as the re-development of Wembley Stadium meant the FA Cup and Rugby League Challenge Cup finals needed temporary homes in the early 2000s.

A 74,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof proved a perfect stand-in for Wembley's famous twin towers.

The League Cup final and the Football League play-offs also came to Cardiff during that period.

Sir Terry Matthews' investment - backed by the Welsh Assembly Government - brought the 2010 Ryder Cup to Newport.

The Welsh government was also strongly involved in the campaign which controversially brought the Ashes to Cardiff in 2009 - with Cardiff City Council also adding financial backing to Glamorgan County Cricket Club's ambitious development.

Rugby World Cup: 1999

This event effectively kick-started Wales' role as a host of major sporting events.

The Welsh Rugby Union led the bid to host the tournament and while games were spread throughout Europe's major rugby nations, the newly-built Millennium Stadium hosted the opening and closing games.

The 1999 Rugby World Cup closing ceremony at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
The 1999 Rugby World Cup closing ceremony at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

Wales hosted nine games in all during the competition.

Australia beat France in the final in as Wales welcomed the world on a memorable occasion in the nation's history.

FA Cup final: 2001-2006

The Football Association turned to Cardiff when Wembley Stadium was being rebuilt.

England star Michael Owen grabbed the headlines the first time Wales hosted the final.

He scored two late goals as Liverpool beat Arsenal 2-1.

Ashes Test: 2009

Australia take the field in the Ashes series against England in Cardiff in 2009
Australia take the field in the Ashes series against England in Cardiff in 2009

There was consternation in some parts of the cricket world when Cardiff was announced as a venue for the opening Test of the 2009 Ashes series.

But there was almost universal praise for the job done by Glamorgan Cricket Club in greeting England and Australia.

England battled to a dramatic draw on a tense final day.

Ryder Cup: 2010

The weather affected the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, Newport
The weather affected the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, Newport

Another event that came to Wales at the expense of traditional major venues.

And another dramatic sporting occasion as Northern Irishman Graeme MacDowell held his nerve to seal victory at Celtic Manor, Newport.

History was also made by the deluge that forced the event into a fourth day for the first time.

Olympic football: 2012

Brazilian fans at the 2012 Olympic Games men's football match between Brazil and Egypt in Cardiff
Brazilian fans at the 2012 Olympic Games men's football match between Brazil and Egypt in Cardiff

The opening ceremony for the 2012 Games took place in London two days after competition actually kicked off at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

Great Britain's women football team beat their New Zealand counterparts 1-0.

Nine football matches took place at the city centre arena during the Games - including GB men's matches featuring Welshmen Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy, Joe Allen, Neil Taylor and Aaron Ramsey.

Uefa Super Cup: 2014

James Rodriguez, Christiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale celebrate Real Madrid's 2014 Super Cup win in Cardiff
James Rodriguez, Christiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale celebrate Real Madrid's 2014 Super Cup win in Cardiff

This was the day on which Wales welcomed the nation's football superstar Gareth Bale back to his home city.

Christiano Ronaldo scored both goals as Real Madrid beat Sevilla 2-0 at Cardiff City Stadium.

The event's hosting played a pivotal role in Uefa awarding the 2017 Champions League final to the Welsh capital.

The future

The Ashes return to Cardiff on Wednesday, 8 July when England face Australia in the first Test of the 2015 series.

Before that, the British Speedway GP takes place at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, 4 July.

Further ahead, the 2016 World Half Marathon will be held in Cardiff in March.

And it has been reported that there are plans to bid for a stage of the Tour de France or even a Grand Depart to take place in Wales.

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