Outdoor sports in France are of many types. Though certain professional sporting activities vastly outweigh others in terms of popularity, France has a number of world-famous activities in everything from team sports to racing to water and court sports.
Outdoor Team Sports
The most popular sport in France, according to a 2005 study of licensed athletes across the nation, is football. Considering its wide appeal across most of the continent, the sport attracted more than 2 million players at the time. There are 46 professional competitive football leagues in France, all a part of the French Football League (FFF). The next most popular outdoor team sport in France is petanque, which is played both professionally and at an amateur level nationwide. Similar to the Western yard game bocce ball, petanque involves throwing "boules" as close as possible to "jacks" and is played both as individuals and teams. Other popular team sports in France include basketball, handball and rugby, both of which boast national and professional teams.
Of racing sports, the most well-known in France is cycling. Home to the world-renowned Tour de France, the country brings competitors from around the globe to its annual tradition. The race stretches more than 2,200 miles and enters neighbouring countries in its course. The event has been held for more than 100 years in France, and is televised internationally every year.
According to the same 2005 study, the water sport with the most participants is kayaking. In both the recreational and competitive racing setting, France is home to many leagues and clubs of canoe-kayak athletes. There were more than 250,000 licensed participants in 2005. In addition, natation, or swimming, is nearly as popular as kayaking and canoeing. This area is one of the only ones that is more popular with female athletes than males in France. Other popular water sports include sailing, surfing, and windsurfing, due to the France's long southern and northwestern coastlines.
Some of France's most popular sports are individualistic or court-based. After European football, the next most-registered activity is tennis, with more than a million licensed athletes involved. The country is home to many tournaments, including the French Open, which is held annually at the Roland-Garros venue in Paris. Judo and equestrian sports are also popular among French people, rounding out the top four most licensed sporting activities nationwide. The Championnats du Monde, an annual worldwide judo competition, brings approximately 900 judo competitors from around the world for a weeklong championship that draws as many as 60,000 spectators.
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