2020: A wallhalla for sports fans

Edition 31 January, by John Mahnen

Regardless if you place a single wager, if you’re a sports fan you are set to hit the jackpot in 2020.  If you have been putting off buying one of those new 4k televisions, it may be high time to break open the piggybank.  Then again, you may be needing some of that mad money for tickets as a lot of the action will be a mere stone’s throw away.  Here’s a month-by-month overview of just what this sporting year has in store up to the end of the summer.

Ajax will have the chance to rid themselves of a nasty pre-Christmas hangover.  The Amsterdammers found themselves outside of the Champions League looking in thanks to Valencia.  Their shot at redemption will come in the Europa League where they will face another Spanish side in Getafe.  Alkmaar’s AZ will also compete in the European tournament and will play their home and away matches against LASK Linz of Austria.

March is the traditional start of the road cycling season with the classics in Belgium and Italy.  Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (March 1), Paris-Nice (March 8-15), Tirreno-Adriatico (March 11-17) and Milan-San Remo (March 21).  With a chill still in the air, tune into Eurosport or Sporza on Belgian TV and pour yourself a little something brewed in Belgian Abbey.

The Dutch national men’s soccer team will return to action in March.  In a tune-up for the European Championship, Oranje will host the U.S. Men’s National Team in Eindhoven’s PSV stadium.  The kickoff is slated for 20:45 on Thursday the 26th and tickets are available.  Three days later, Ronald Koeman will see his side face off in Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff ArenA in another friendly against Spain.

April begins with the Tour of Flanders on April 5.  With the weather getting a little more conducive to self-participation, the Flandrien Ride, held on the same day in Breda, is a good chance to dust off the bike and get a ride in.

In April, the national footy side with the most success in recent years, the women, will lace up the boots for fixtures against Kosovo (April 10) and Estonia (April 14).  At stake is a ticket to the Euro slated to be held in 2021 in England.  The games will also serve as preparation for the Olympic Games in Japan.

If they are not already on your radar, the Invictus Games May 9-16 should be.  Organized for disabled combat veterans, the games will bring together over 500 competitors from 19 nations to compete in a series of adaptive sports. The action will play out largely at the Zuiderpark in The Hague.  The Duke of Sussex, under whose patronage the games are organized will likely play a prominent role.

Speaking of royalty and sports, Prince Bernhard will be hosting the traveling motorsport spectacle known as Formula One when the Dutch Grand Prix invades the beach town of Zandvoort (May 1-3).   Bernhard is part owner of the circuit which last saw F1 action in 1985.  Tickets are likely to be only found on the secondary market and if you plan on going, you’ll likely need the train or bike to get to the track.

After the sand has settled on the Grand Prix, the collective focus of the Netherlands will fall on Italy and the Giro d’Italia (May 9-31).  Eurosport will be the ‘Home of Cycling’ for the Giro and their English language commentary usually requires just a click or two on the television remote.

Rounding out the bumper crop of May sports are the European swimming championships in Budapest (May 11-24) and Roland Garros (May 24 tot June 7).

The 2020 year of sport jumps into high gear in June with the start of the European Championship football.  The opening game of the Euro 2020 is Italy vs. Turkey from the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.  The Dutch have not played on the big stage since the World Cup in 2014 and will contest their three group fixtures in the Johan Cruyff Stadium.  Oranje will face the Ukraine on June 14 followed by Austria on the 18th.   The final first round game will be played on 22nd.

June will also see the start of both the Tour de France (June 27-July 19) and Wimbledon (June 29-July 12).

The Euro will culminate in July, playing out in twelve cities in twelve countries.  The semi-finals (July 7 and 8) and the final (Sunday 12 July) will be hosted by Wembley Stadium in London.

Cycling enthusiasts will want to circle the following dates: July 12 (Lyon – Grand Colombier), 15 (Grenoble – Col de la Loze) 18 (time trial to La Planche des Belles Filles) and the 19th (last stage to Paris). Steven Kruijswijk, Tom Dumoulin and Primoz Roglic will be the lead riders for the Jumbo-Visma team and anything short of a Grand Tour win in 2020 will be a dissapoitntment.

Friday, July 24, marks the opening of games of the 32nd Olympiad in Tokyo.  The Japanese capital will host 18 days of memory-making sport with good chances for Dutch Olympic medals in cycling as well as women’s handball, hockey and soccer.

The Tokyo Olympics will continue through August 9.  Eurosport will be the main broadcaster for the games but many of the events with a Dutch following will be sold on to the state broadcaster NOS.  In the United Kingdom, these will be the last Games whose rights are fully owned by the BBC.   

In August, the 75th edition of Spain’s La Vuelta will start in the Netherlands.  From the 14th to the 16th, the Grand Tour will be hosted by Utrecht and the province of Brabant.  There will be a large offering of side events for fans and spectators will line the parcours for the three Dutch stages.  If you want to ride yourself, the Clásico España on August 9 will be hosted in Den Bosch and traverse parts of the Brabant stage.

So whether you attend, play or watch, 2020 offers something for just about every sports fan.  If your sporting interests are broad, you may find yourself having to make some difficult choices.  One thing is certain: you will not be bored!