Zambia declared its independence on the day of the closing ceremony of the 1964 Summer Olympics, thereby becoming the first country ever to have entered an Olympic games as one country, and left it as another. Zambia took part in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Football is the most popular sport in Zambia, and the Zambia national football team has had its triumphant moments in football history. At the Seoul Olympics of 1988, the national team defeated the Italian national team by a score of 4–0. Kalusha Bwalya, Zambia’s most celebrated football player and one of Africa’s greatest football players in history had a hat trick in that match. However, to this day, many pundits say the greatest team Zambia has ever assembled was the one that perished on 28 April 1993 in a plane crash at Libreville, Gabon. Despite this, in 1996, Zambia was ranked 15th on the official FIFA World Football Team rankings, the highest attained by any southern African team. In 2012, Zambia won the African Cup of Nations for the first time after losing in the final twice. They beat Côte d’Ivoire 8–7 in a penalty shoot-out in the final, which was played in Libreville, just a few kilometres away from the plane crash 19 years previously.
Rugby Union, boxing and cricket are also popular sports in Zambia. Notably, at one point in the early 2000s, the Australia and South Africa national rugby teams were captained by players born in the same Lusaka hospital, George Gregan and Corné Krige. Zambia boasts having the highest rugby poles in the world, located at Luanshya Sports Complex in Luanshya.
Rugby union in Zambia is a minor but growing sport. They are currently ranked 73rd by the IRB and have 3,650 registered players and three formally organised clubs. Zambia used to play cricket as part of Rhodesia. Zambia has also strangely provided a shinty international, Zambian-born Eddie Tembo representing Scotland in the compromise rules Shinty/Hurling game against Ireland in 2008.
In 2011, Zambia was due to host the tenth All-Africa Games, for which three stadiums were to be built in Lusaka, Ndola, and Livingstone. The Lusaka stadium would have a capacity of 70,000 spectators while the other two stadiums would hold 50,000 people each. The government was encouraging the private sector to get involved in the construction of the sports facilities because of a shortage of public funds for the project. Zambia has since revoked its bid to host the 2011 All-Africa Games, citing a lack of funds. Hence, Mozambique took Zambia’s place as host.
Zambia also produced the first black African (Madalitso Muthiya) to play in the United States Golf Open, one of the four major golf tournaments.
In 1989, the country’s basketball team had its best performance when it qualified for the FIBA Africa Championship and thus finished as one of Africa’s top ten teams.
In 2017, Zambia hosted and won the Pan-African football tournament U-20 African Cup of Nation for players age 20 and under.