Thursday, 20 Jun 2024

World Cup vs Olympics: Which Event Reigns Supreme?

olympic soccer vs world cup

The World Cup vs Olympics debate has been a topic of discussion for years, stirring strong emotions among sports enthusiasts. Determining which event is larger involves considering various factors: viewership, history, and prestige. So, let’s dive into the comparison between these two grand sporting events.

World Cup vs Olympics

Both the World Cup and the Olympics hold the distinction of being the biggest sporting events worldwide, combining history and glory. Each attracts billions of viewers, but the definition of “bigness” varies for different individuals. Some believe that the longevity of an event defines its significance, while others argue that grandeur and prestige matter more.

In terms of viewership, let’s examine the figures for the 2018 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics:

  • The Rio Olympics of 2016 drew in a staggering audience of 3.6 billion viewers, according to Statista.
  • According to FIFA, the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia attracted an audience of 3.57 billion.

Olympics and World Cup

As we can see, there is not a significant difference in audience numbers between these two colossal events.

Argument for The World Cup

Increase in Viewership

Comparing recent figures, the most recent Olympic Games in Tokyo attracted an audience of 3.05 billion viewers, the lowest recorded for the Olympics. In contrast, the 2014 World Cup had an audience of 3.2 billion, while the 2018 World Cup saw an increase to 3.57 billion viewers. These numbers suggest a rise in World Cup viewership.

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Argument for the Olympics

Consistently more viewers

While the lower figure for the 2020 Olympics can be attributed to various factors, such as delays and obstacles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the forthcoming 2024 Olympics in Paris could potentially bounce back to around 4 billion viewers. If this happens, it would surpass the audience numbers for the 2018 World Cup, solidifying the Olympics as the biggest global sporting event.

Argument for The World Cup

Greater climax than the Olympics

The 2018 World Cup Final captivated 1.12 billion viewers worldwide, surpassing the viewership of any single day or event during the Olympics. This highlights the World Cup’s ability to maintain audience engagement throughout the tournament, making it a truly thrilling and unforgettable experience.

World Cup vs Olympics: Which event is bigger?

Argument for the Olympics

A greater level of history

The Summer Olympics dates back to 1896, while the World Cup first took place in 1930. Hence, in terms of historical significance, the Olympics holds the upper hand. Moreover, when delving deeper into their origins, the Olympics prevailed, commencing as early as 776 BC, whereas the earliest form of football, ‘cuju’, emerged in 206 BC. However, considering the difference in digital capabilities between now and the ancient times, both events would have missed out on a substantial number of viewers.

Argument for The World Cup

The World Cup evokes a higher level of passion

The World Cup brings together fans who share a common love and understanding of the sport. In contrast, the Olympics attracts fans passionate about various different sports. Consequently, it may be challenging for some Olympic fans to experience the same level of ardor for sports they are less familiar with. World Cup enthusiasts, on the other hand, share a collective ecstasy or disappointment when goals are scored or conceded.

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World Cup vs Olympics: Which event is bigger?

Argument for the Olympics

The Olympics has a broader range of fans

With an array of sports on display, the Olympics has a greater opportunity to attract fans of all types. Unlike the World Cup, where football dominates the scene, the Olympics provides an alternative for those who may not be interested in certain sports. This inclusiveness makes the Olympics more appealing to a broader audience and, therefore, contributes to its claim as the bigger event.

Ultimately, the World Cup vs Olympics debate lacks a definitive answer. However, due to consistently higher viewership numbers, the Olympics holds the edge as the bigger event. Nevertheless, the increasing audience numbers for the World Cup suggest a potential shift in the future.


Q: How many viewers did the 2018 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics attract?

A: The 2018 World Cup drew in an audience of 3.57 billion viewers, while the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio had an audience of 3.6 billion viewers.

Q: Which event has a longer history?

A: The Olympics holds a longer history, commencing in 776 BC, while the World Cup started in 1930.

Q: Does the World Cup or the Olympics attract more passionate fans?

A: The World Cup tends to evoke a higher level of passion among fans due to the shared love and understanding of football, whereas the Olympics caters to fans of multiple sports.


The World Cup and the Olympics share the distinction of being the two biggest sporting events globally, attracting billions of viewers. While the Olympics currently holds the title of the larger event, the World Cup’s increasing viewership suggests a potential shift in the future. Regardless, both events showcase the pinnacle of athleticism and captivate the world with their grandeur. To explore more about Pesstatsdatabase’s football expertise and analysis, visit Pesstatsdatabase today!

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Article written by the Pesstatsdatabase brand, experts in football data and analysis.