The beauty of sports is that they are the closest thing to a meritocracy. Sure, anyone can play basketball or soccer at anytime and if they show a particular talent, they can make a career out of it. While this is true for many sports, it is not for all. Not everyone has access to every sport. In some sports, talent and hard work are not the determinants of success. The major determinant of success in some sports is money.
The following ten sports are all about access. Without considerable financial capital there is no way an individual can even consider participating in these sports. The costs associated with these sports are very high and not only include equipment and training costs, but also insurance. Quite frankly, some of these sports appear to be designed so the elite can do something with their money. Regardless of the expenses, competing in and succeeding in these ten sports is time consuming and requires a level of commitment on par with other sports. If you want to pursue any of these sports though, be warned, they have the potential to empty your pockets!
Equestrian is the sport concerned with the skill of riding, driving, steeple chasing or vaulting with horses. Equestrian sports, however, are sports that only the privileged few can participate in. The costs of training and maintaining a horse for the events in equestrian sports can be astronomical and include traveling to events and stabling the animal appropriately. The cost of exhibiting a horse on the international circuit can exceed $200,000 a year. This figure doesn’t even include the cost of purchasing a horse.
Just like equestrian, polo requires the purchase of an elite horse and requires maintenance, training and traveling costs. What separates polo is that it requires those who play it to own more than one horse. Most polo players need about four horses in order to substitute tired horses. Polo ponies must be exercised regularly and this usually requires two grooms at $2,500 a month. Tournaments can cost anywhere between $3,500 and $150,000. To be a patron and sponsor polo teams in tournaments can cost anywhere between $300,000 and $1,000,000.
- Formula 1
Those dreaming to be Formula 1 drivers should expect to have high expenses, as injuries are prevalent and are usually more serious that a sprained ankle. Participation in this sport, requires one to own their own car. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motor racing and to reach this level, drivers have to start racing from a young age on go-karts. The costs rise at each level and corporate sponsors are essential as entering a Formula 1 race costs about $190,000. There is a reason why the cars and athletes look like walking advertisements for various products. The cost of the cars are astronomical and the tires cost more than the average civilian vehicle.
There shouldn’t be a surprise to see sailing on this list. Owning a boat is usually more expensive than owning a car and the boats required for this sport, and the assortment of equipment, requires deep pockets. A sailing vessel can cost up to $100 million as in the AC 72 craft which will participate in this year’s America’s Cup. The only catch in this sport is, that it takes place over a few months. The rest of the time the boat has to be stored and this is where most of the money is spent. When the boat in question is on dry land, it is an expensive task to make sure it is suitable to go back in the water.
Participating in a sport at the highest level can be an expensive proposition. Depending on the sport, the costs for equipment and training can be high. Well, if you want to participate in the Pentathlon, you should be ready to spend money on not one, but five sports. These sports are fencing, swimming, show jumping, pistol shooting and running. Obviously the cost of show jumping is far and the most expensive facet, as it requires a horse. But there are other costs from training for all the other events, such as the costs of fencing equipment as well as the purchase and maintenance of guns.
Wingsuiting is the sport of flying the human body through the air using a special jumpsuit called a wingsuit. The wingsuit adds surface area to the human body to enable a significant increase in lift. Surprisingly, the wingsuit is not the most expensive component of the sport and costs about $2,500. What really burns your money is the many costs associated with getting into the air and back on solid ground safely. One has to take skydiving lessons, purchase gear, rent a plane, pay a pilot and also pay insurance. These costs add up and prevent all but the elite from participating. Recreational wingsuiting can cost up to $30,000 a year, without including insurance costs. The costs are exponentially higher for competitive wingsuiting.
Bobsledding is similar to F1 in the sense that it requires corporate sponsorship for those who have any hope of participating. The bobsleds themselves are not cheap and cost around $25,000 and it is very expensive to train, as there are few bobsled runs in the world. Constructing a bobsled run can cost millions of dollars. Bobsledding is a team sport and requires four participants and hence four times the cost.
- Hot Air Balloon Racing
The prices for a recreational ride on a hot air balloon that an individual would pay cost upwards of $300 for an hour ride. One can only imagine the costs of owning and competing in those balloons. A one person hot air balloon costs at least $20,000 to buy. Balloons must meet air safety regulations and need to be inspected which costs around $350. Inspections occur either annually or every 100 hours of flight time. The costs of training for a pilot’s license can cost anywhere between $1,250 and $3,000.
Then there are the equipment costs, such as navigational devices and the storage fees. Storing a hot air balloon is not quite the same as parking a car in a garage. Fuel for these machines can cost about $15-$30 an hour and the cost of inflating the balloons is at least $900, as a special fan is required. Competition fees are expensive and one cannot forget the insurance which would cost up to $1,200 annually. As if all this is not enough, a hot air balloon typically lasts between 300-500 hours of flight time after which it needs to be significantly repaired or replaced.
- Ski Jumping
Though the equipment can cost upwards of $2,500, it pales in comparison to the aforementioned sports. While recreational ski jumping is pricey, competitive ski jumping can be exponentially more so. The equipment will cost more (maybe $2,500 for just the skis) and a trainer is required. Access to ski jump for training is also a requirement and is going to cost a lot. A competitive ski jumper should expect expenses in the range of $100,000 every year and needs a bevy of sponsors in order to pursue the sport. But what really makes this sport expensive is the insurance policy. As one can imagine, being insured for a sport that requires an individual to fly down an incline at great speeds and jump is not easy and will significantly dent one’s wallet.
- The Whitianga Festival of Speed
The world’s most expensive sport or sporting event is the Whitianga Festival of Speed. The festival is held annually in New Zealand and features multiple sports centered around speed. The event includes a helicopter race, an offshore Powerboat Race, Jet Ski racing, Rally Car vs. Helicopter Racing, and Parachute Swooping, among other events. So, basically in order for you to join the competition, you have to have a helicopter, amongst all the other equipment. Owning and maintaining the equipment for one of these races is expensive enough, but to do it for all of them requires many millions of dollars.