Golden Ticket: Criss-crossing the globe in pursuit of sporting heaven

ALL OVER THE WORLD: If only it were true for our sports editor, Nicholas Westby.
ALL OVER THE WORLD: If only it were true for our sports editor, Nicholas Westby.
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WHAT sporting events would you attend if you had a golden ticket to one a month in 2016? Sports editor Nick Westby takes us on a journey around the world.

As a sports reporter for this great organ of repute, one of my favourite jobs each year was writing the ‘golden ticket’ feature.

Where would I go, which sporting event would I attend, if I could take a seat in the press box at one per month anywhere in the world?

It was the only time I answered the sports editor’s call obediently.

Since orchestrating a successful coup d’etat in the Spring of 2015 and ousting the old boss to become the new boss, the issue of who to bestow this imaginary honour upon among the minnions at my service was one that was never far from the forefront of my mind.

Who do I trust to give this sacred task to? Who is worthy of a place at the controls of The Yorkshire Post’s helicopter to criss-cross the globe? Who has earned the best seat in the house at a dozen sporting events in 2016?

And as I gaze across the sports desk, the answer is obvious.

It’s me.

The ‘golden ticket’ is my honour, my baby, and no-one is taking it from me.

The grumbles are audible across the newsroom floor as my one-time chums take umbridge, but I don’t hear their histrionics.

In fact, I can’t hear anything on the helipad atop YP Towers as the rotor-blades begin to whirl. Because I have no time to waste. I am bound for Cape Town and am already running late. The second Test begins this morning and with any luck I’ll be there for the start of day two.

Four days watching Root, Bairstow and co in the sunshine ... well, I may as well stay in South Africa for the whole month and see out the Test series.

For in February, I’m back in Blighty, a whistle-stop tour of the north of England’s rugby league strongholds; St Helens, Wigan and, of course, the mighty Leeds Rhinos, as England’s best go toe-to-toe with Australia’s finest.

Blood, sweat and tears – and that’s just Dave Craven after I’ve eaten all the pies.

In March I’m heading to the other side of the world to see Lewis Hamilton begin the pursuit of a third world title as the Formula 1 season clicks into gear around Albert Park, Melbourne.

With the air miles already clocking up, I have decided to skip my traditional April venue of Augusta and the Masters for something a little closer to home.

You don’t get any closer than Beverley, Settle, Otley, Doncaster, Middlesbrough and Scarborough; the start and finish points in the second staging of the Tour de Yorkshire.

After a chilled glass of lager with Sir Bradley in the Wiggins team bus it is only fair that I pop my head in at the sports desk to see how everything’s shaping up.

They’re coping fine, apparently, so after rejecting a couple of holiday requests and knocking a few heads together, I’m off again, with Roland Garros my destination.

With two weeks in the Parisian heat watching Novak Djokovic attempt that elusive grand slam, it doesn’t get any better.

Only it does, for in June I’m back in Leeds as once again Yorkshire is the centre of the sporting universe when the ITU world triathlon series race comes to town on June 11-12. Brownlee versus Brownlee on the roads they know better than anyone.

Also that weekend, Euro 2016 kicks-off, but I’m saving my golden ticket for a return trip to Paris in July and the final at the Stade de France. What an emotive occasion that will be, whoever the protagonists.

There is only one place to be in August – Rio de Janeiro, home of the 31st Summer Olympics.

Bolt v Gatlin, Ennis-Hill against whoever is brave enough, Adams versus history. Once again, it will prove a sporting extravaganza like no other.

The end of the Olympics brings with it the chance to have some respite, a return home, a check of the emails, a shower and a shave.

Before long, I’ll be back out again, getting another stamp in the passport as in September I set off on a two-month journey across the United States of America.

The highlight of this road trip comes at the very start, at Hazeltine, Minnesota, where 24 golfers from either side of the Atlantic will put individual pursuits to one side in their quest for the most coveted trophy in team golf, the Ryder Cup.

After a breathless 72 hours, in which my emotions were sent this way and that, I climb into my rented Cadillac, roll down the top and head down the Interstate to Kansas City for baseball’s World Series at the end of October.

I say Kansas, because the Royals have featured in the last two series and are as good a bet as any to be there again in 2016.

November offers me the chance for a rare indulgence. Okay, maybe not so rare given the last few hundred words, but I’m extending my road trip to take in some of the NFL’s great stadiums – Arrowhead since I’m in Kansas, Texas Stadium in Arlington to watch the Cowboys, and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara near San Francisco, to cheer on the 49ers.

By the end of it, I’m shattered, but have enough energy to fly into Heathrow and head to Twickenham on the first Saturday of December to watch England head coach Eddie Jones try and outwit the country of his birth as Rugby World Cup finalists Australia come to town.

Then it’s back to the office, to heal a few rifts, upset people with the Christmas rota and plan my 2017 journey.