Can You Guess Which Were The 27 Most-Watched Events In History?

Nowadays, in the digital age, you can find out what’s happening in the rest of the world just by touching the screen of your cellphone. Thanks to the Internet and social media, worldwide news spread across seas in a matter of seconds. But what was it like 40 years ago? Well, before the 90s, there were only two ways of learning about what went on around the globe: newspapers or TV. But guess what? Some events went so viral that nearly half of the world watched them on TV. Let’s take a look at the 27 most-watched televised events in history! Who knows, maybe you were part of them!

Photo: Courtesy of History 101.

#27. Prince William And Kate Middleton Wedding

Everything that happens in the Royal Palace of England is known by millions of people around the world. From the baptisms of the children to the princes’ weddings, everything is at the center of public attention. One of the most-watched events in the history of the Royal family was the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.

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That April 29 of 2011, everything looked like a fairytale and everyone wanted to be part of it, even if they could only see it on TV! The wedding was televised in 188 countries around the world via YouTube and it had more than 350 million viewers. In addition, 26 million people in England watched it live!

#26. Man On The Moon

Perhaps one of the most important events of all time was when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. On July 20, 1969, at 8.17 pm, nearly 600 million people turned on their TV and watched Armstrong’s quest for glory, out of a population of nearly 3.61 billion. That’s over 15% of the world!

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Time was ticking for Armstrong, as by the time he reached the moon, Apollo 11 only had 30 seconds of fuel left. So in those instants, Armstrong barely had enough time to say one of the most epic phrases of the 20th century: “One small step for a man”. Have you seen this amazing moment, either live or on YouTube?

#25. Aloha From Hawaii

For the new generations, it’s quite difficult to imagine that a few decades ago, rock concerts were one of the most expected and watched events. Today, everything is on the web and you can see it online any time you want to, but back in the 70s, everything was different. And in one of his many concerts, Elvis Presley, a.k.a. The King did this.

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On January 14, 1973, Presley performed “Aloha From Hawaii”, and the song was televised by satellites to more than 1 billion people around 40 countries. You probably never knew that the singer never left North America because his manager wasn’t willing to join him. That’s why they decided to give his fans around the world this amazing surprise!

#24. Chilean Miners Rescue

Some historical events could leave us awake for hours or maybe days, making us wonder how everything will unfold. Such was the case of the Chilean miners of the Copiapo goldmine in 2010. On August 5, the 33 miners were trapped in the goldmine when a ramp collapsed. For almost two weeks, nobody knew whether the miners were still alive until August 22, when a note reached the surface saying: “We are fine in the shelter, the 33 of us”. 

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The world had to wait two more months to finally see the face of the miners. In October, the government sent a rescue team to the goldmine after an extensive study of the mine. October 13th was the lucky day for these miners as they were pulled from the ground to the surface one by one. Little did they know that over a billion people were watching this 23-hour rescue live both on TV and the Internet!

#23. 2018 World Cup Final

It is widely known that every four years, millions of people watch the World Cup. During one month, the world stops and people from different countries forget about their differences and get together to watch and enjoy this thrilling tournament.

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On July 12, 2018, France and Croatia played the World Cup Final, and guess what? Over 1 billion people around the globe watched it on TV! It was an exciting match, plus, it was Croatia’s first final ever. Remember the score? France won 4-2, but Luka Modric won the Golden Ball!

#22. Muhammad Ali’s Memorial Service

Now that we’re talking about sports, we have to mention boxing! One of the greatest professional boxers that have ever existed is definitely Muhammad Ali. Not only will he be remembered for his numerous awards, but also for being part of the Civil Rights Movement and standing up against racial discrimination.

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When he passed away on June 3, 2016, at the age of 76, a lot of people around the world wanted to give him their last farewell. That’s why on June 10, the former World Champion’s memorial was televised. Lots of stars were present, including Mike Tyson and Will Smith, plus the billion people that were watching it on TV.

#21. The Rumble In The Jungle

Now that we’ve delved into the topic of boxing, here’s another significant event you should all know about! If we ask our grandparents, I’m pretty sure they’ll all agree that the golden age of boxing was in the 70s. During those years, many of history’s greatest boxing legends reached the peak of their career and it was also one of the most viewed sports in the world. Let’s talk about the time when Muhammad Ali and George Foreman faced each other, fight known as “The Rumble in the jungle”.

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On October 30, 1974, in the actual Democratic Republic Of The Congo, Foreman was the 4-1 favorite and all the world remained expectant. More than 1 billion people were watching the fight, but while everyone thought Ali was going to lose, he gave a devastating five-punch combination that knocked out Foreman.

#20. 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup

Even though football is by far the most popular sport in the world, we shouldn’t forget that many other sports also attract millions, and cricket is one of them. Even though it’s not popular in the USA or South America, a lot of people from Europe and especially Asia follow it. In 2015, the Cricket World Cup took place, and India and Pakistan played against each other during the group phase.

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In addition, these countries have a historical enmity due to geopolitical factors, so this match was all the world talked about. More than 1 billion fans watched the game online and on TV while some of them were obviously watching it live. That day, India won the game by 73 runs… whatever that means!

#19. Prince Charles And Lady Di Wedding

Has there ever been anything closer to a fairytale than the 1981 wedding between Prince Charles and Lady Di? Lady Di went from being a nursery teacher’s assistant to the Princes Of Wales, and because of their enormous popularity, this wedding was considered the “wedding of the century”. Even to this day, we still remember the couple’s loving kiss in front of the media, the people of England and the Queen!

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Believe it or not, this wedding had an even bigger TV audience than Prince William and Kate Middleton’s! The couple was together for 13 years when they decided to separate, in what became one of the greatest Royal scandals ever. Obviously, we all know about Lady Di’s tragic fate and Prince Charles’ second marriage with Camilla Parker, but in spite of that, Charles and Di’s wedding day will remain forever in our hearts.

#18. 2006 Word Cup Final

Like we said before, FIFA Wolrd Cups attract literally billions of people around the world. One of the most-watched World Cup soccer games of all time was the final between France and Italy in 2006. Perhaps many of you don’t remember the final result of the game but vividly recall Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt against Marco Materazzi’s chest.

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For that action, Zidane received a red card and was thrown out of the game. The match ended up in a tie but Italy won in penalties, but all fans remember is the headbutt. After many months of speculation, the media finally revealed the reason Zidane got so angry with Materazzi was that the Italian player insulted Zidane’s sister.

#17. The Wall Live In Berlin

We can say for sure that Pink Floyd is one of the most innovative bands of all time and many of their songs are famous for their social and political commentary. Can you imagine if millions of people were given the chance to watch one of their concerts from the comfort of their homes? Well, that’s exactly what happened on July 21, 1990.

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In 1989, the Berlin Wall – which separated East and West Germany – was demolished, marking the end of the Cold War. Pink Floyd decided to give a show in Berlin in honor of such a historical event, and the stage was a wall, meant to represent the Berlin Wall. More than 450,000 people watched the concert live and another billion watched it from their homes. At the end of the concert, the wall of the stage was torn down too.

#16. Thrilla In Manila

“Thrilla in Manila” was the third and final boxing match between Ali and Joe Frazier, which took place on October 1 in 1975. Before the fight, Ali pronounced one of the most famous phrases in the history of boxing: “It will be a killa and a thrilla and a chilla when I get the Goriila in Manila”. Not the fanciest and nicest words out there, but hey, that’s how the boxing world works like!

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This battle was epic and the two fought head-to-head during 13 rounds. Ali used his usual rope-a-dope technique but it didn’t work against Frazier. In the end, Frazier couldn’t see anything because of an eye injury and Ali finally won, but he declared that it was his hardest battle ever.

#15. 2010 World Cup Final

Sports, especially soccer games, are an important part of people’s lives and culture. We can’t imagine what would happen if the World Cups no longer existed. Every 4 years, everyone is part of this amazing festivity full of colors, music, and of course, goals! The 2010 World Cup was special for two reasons: it was the first time after 32 years that neither Brazil nor Germany reached the final, and it was the first Cup to be held in Africa!

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The final between the Netherlands and Spain was considered the roughest game of all because the Netherlands got 9 yellow cards while Spain received 5. The game was full of emotions and in the 109th minute a Dutch player got a red card and seven minutes later Andre Iniesta scored the winning goal. Oh, and over a billion people watched it!

 #14. Ali Vs. Antonio Inoki

We can’t forget the boxing fight between Ali and Inoki, the Japanese boxer that used martial arts in his performances. Inoki’s combination of martial arts and boxing techniques had given him many victories in multiple fighting disciplines, but was this enough to beat Ali?

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A few days before the fight, Ali found out that the match was a farse and he had to lose on purpose, but he refused to do so, so what was initially a fake fight became a real one. However, some of the traditional rules were changed, and that’s why some weird stuff happened, such as Inoki lying on his back while kicking Ali in the shin. The match ended in a draw, but many people questioned the result.

#13. 1984 L.A Olympics Opening Ceremony

During Ronal Reagan’s government, the Olympics Games took place in the US. On July 28, 1984, everyone had high expectations for the opening ceremony. More than 100,000 people traveled to L.A. to see it live and more than 1,5 billion people saw it from their homes.

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The opening ceremony was famous for its impressive music shows as well as for the artists that performed. No-one will forget that Bill Suitor made his special entrance to the stage by using a Bell Aerosystems rocket pack, a.k.a Jet Pack.

#12. Prince Harry And Meghan Markle Wedding

The wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was no ordinary royal wedding, as it was special for many reasons. These two lovebirds broke many royal precedents; for instance, they were the first royal couple to ever give an interview for a TV show before the wedding. They finally got married on May 19, 2018.

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The wedding was watched by almost 2 billion people around the world. Markle started as a Hollywood actress and went on to become the Duchess of Sussex… is there anything more movie-like than that? Also, a lot of people compared Prince Harry’s wedding to that of his father, Prince Charles.

#11. Live Aid

Perhaps one of the most incredible concerts ever to be held was Live Aid. On July 13, 1985, two simultaneous concerts took place: one at Wembley Stadium in London and the other at John F.Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. People could watch them at the same time on TV and they had more than 2 billion viewers.

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The shows were amazing and some of the artists’ performances are still in our memories. We can’t help but mention Freddie Mercury’s remarkable performance, or the collaboration between Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. All of this was for a good cause: to raise funds to battle famine in Ethiopia.

#10. The Last Hurrah

If you thought we were done with Ali, you were wrong! For many people, it’s hard to choose just one of his fights, since his career has been full of iconic victories and defeats alike. When Ali decided to fight with the WBC Heavyweight Champion Larry Holmes on October 2, 1980, at the Ceasers Palace in Las Vegas, he was in the final stage of his career and already suffering from health issues.

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After 10 rounds, Ali’s manager decided to end with the game. A few days after, they revealed that Ali was suffering from tingling in his hands and a decrease in his motor function, but he still wanted to continue fighting in Las Vegas. After a short time, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and he had to hang up the gloves shortly after.

#9. Michael Jackson’s Memorial Service

For some people, Michael Jackson represented a whole new music generation and he was regarded as the greatest pop culture icon. The King of Pop passed away on June 25, 2009, at the age of 50 and millions of people wanted to say goodbye to their loved artist.

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On July 7, 2009, Jackson’s memorial service at the Staples Center in L.A was televised and over 2 billion people watched it. Many artists decided to collaborate with the funeral, like Mariah Carey, Usher, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Jennifer Hudson, Jermaine Jackson, and Shaheen Jafargholi. They all sang some of Jackson’s greatest songs for the special event.

#8. Live 8

If you were way too young or hadn’t even been born when the Live Aid concert took place in 1985, perhaps you watched its 20th-anniversary sequel in 2005. The so-called Live 8 took place on July 2, 2005, in all the G8-member countries and South Africa. What for? To raise money and battle against poverty throughout the world.

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Some artists made memorable performances, like George Michael and Paul McCartney singing together in London, England. The campaign raised more than $50 billion, half of which was destined for Africa, and had more than 2 billion people watched the concert at the same time!

#7. September 11, 2001

Certainly, this infamous day will be in our memories forever as it was something unseen until that moment. Perhaps, we all remember what we were doing on the morning of September 11 in 2001. More than 2 billion viewers watched how two planes crashed into the Twin Towers in NYC in a matter of minutes.

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The news coverage began at 8:46 a.m. when the first plane crashed against the North Tower, but one hour later, three other planes crashed in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. Nowadays, a memorial in honor of the victims has been created in the site where the Twin Towers used to stand. Every September 11, special events in honor of the victims, survivors, and heroes are held.

#6. 1998 Wolrd Cup Final

As we said before, soccer is one of the people’s greatest passions, so yet another World Cup final is on our list. On July 2, 1998, France, the host team, played the final match against Brazil. The most famous soccer players at that time, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo, were going to compete with each other to prove who was the greatest of all.

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While we have already seen that 2006 was not the best year for Zidane, we can also say that 1998 was not the year for Ronaldo. Not only did his team lose the final 3-0, but he also picked up a fight at the locker room once the match had ended. As to Zidane, this was probably the best day in his life, since he scored two of the three goals, giving France its first World Cup.

#5. Lady Diana’s Funeral

Everything related to the British Crown is under the eye of a camera. Most of the royal members can’t escape paparazzi, and sadly, Lady Di was a victim of this. After she and Prince Charles got divorced in the middle of a scandal, Diana became an important advocate of human rights and became of the world’s most beloved leaders, but she had a tragic fate.

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On August 31, 1997, she and her fiance Dodi Al-Fayed tragically died after their car crashed into a French tunnel just as they were escaping from the paparazzi. A week later, on September 6, 1997, her funeral was televised and more than 2 billion people said goodbye to her.

#4. Ali Vs. Leon Spinks II

We promise this is the last boxing fight on our list! We couldn’t help but mention the first time that Ali was defeated by split decision. Leon Spinks left his mark in history in 1978 after defeating Ali, despite the odds were against him. In fact, he’s the only man in history to have defeated Ali while he held the title.

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But on September 15, 1978, they fought for a second time, and the whole world was dying to find out whether Ali would lose gain. However, this proved to be one of Ali’s most memorable fights we’ve ever seen. He was a little too old to still be on the ring but he was as quick as ever, and by a unanimous decision, he defeated Spinks after 15 rounds.

#3. 2002 World Cup Final

The last World Cup Final from our list is the one that took place in South Korea in 2002. This World Cup was special for many reasons: it was the first and only one to ever be held in Asia, its song and opening ceremony were both fantastic, but above all, it was the first time that Brazil and Germany played against each other on the finals.

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These two soccer teams are considered the best in the world and since 1950, one or the other have been part of the finals. In 2002, the countries finally met at the finals and we enjoyed one of the most incredible soccer games in history. In the end, Ronaldo scored two goals, making Brazil win the cup.

#2. 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony

Definitely, the most important sports tournaments attract millions of fans and that’s a fact. We have different types of sports events, and one of the most important -and the most ancient- of all are the Olympic Games! In 2008, the Olympics were held in Beijing and they made history for several reasons.

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First, the opening ceremony took place on August 8, 2008, and you should know that the number 8 has many meanings in Chinese culture. Second, more than 15,000 professionals and athletes were part of the opening ceremony, which was considered as the best in history to that day. And last but not least, more than 3 billion people watched the ceremony around the world!

#1. 1996 Atlanta Olympics Opening Ceremony

The most important American sportsman is definitely Muhammad Ali, and that’s why we thought he deserved to be in our N°1 event. But he didn’t make it to the first place because of a boxing fight but in honor of his fight against Parkinson.

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During the opening ceremony of the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta, Ali was chosen to light the Olympic torch at the Centennial Olympic Stadium with visible signs of the illness. He literally made half of the whole world cry, as 3,6 people watched this event on TV.

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