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Anthony Grace, Melbourne Sports Tours

Melbourne is a city that's mad for sports, and that's never more evident than during a major international sporting event, when, according to Anthony Grace from Melbourne Sports Tours, the city rolls out the welcome mat for visitors and the build-up is electrifying.

January's Australian Open Tennis Championships and the Formula1 Grand Prix in March are Melbourne's biggest international sporting events, with the Spring Racing Carnival garnering more attention each year. Special sporting events, like the Lions Tour, find passionate sell-out crowds in Melbourne, and then there are the regular local sporting events that are part and parcel of life in Melbourne.

The sporting spirit is experienced far beyond the stadiums when international events come to town, with multi-day cultural festivals often accompanying the main event. Public spaces play host to live music, performing arts and giant screens, and bars and restaurants buzz with play-by-play accounts, good-natured rivalry and general excitement.

Melbourne has a long history and culture of embracing a diverse range of sporting events. Anthony is proud of the city's passionate, informed and broadminded sports fans. 'Who else has a public holiday for a three-and-a-half minute horse race?'

Aussie Rules football is unquestionably Melbourne's number one local sport, but cricket, football, rugby league and rugby union are also popular.

Anthony reckons the best way to experience the city's sporting culture is to get to a game, especially if it's Aussie Rules football. The irreverence and passion of the fans, plus the sheer size of the crowds, are unforgettable. In summer, tennis, cricket, or even surfing lessons will provide lasting sporting memories.

For a UK visitor discovering Melbourne's sports and events, Anthony points you in the direction of the small tour operators, 'the real locals'. He stresses that pre-purchasing tickets to sporting events will save headaches on the day.

He also suggests you sign up for one of Melbourne Sports Tour's behind-the-scenes Sports Lovers Tours. 'It's like having a friend take you round not only the major sporting venues, but the city itself,' he says.

Anthony's sporting feast

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