On December 31, 2019, Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, China, reported several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei Province. Novel coronavirus was eventually identified. Since the onset, the pandemic has caused economic and social damage to almost every sector in the world. The sports culture is one of the badly affected sectors worldwide, is thriving to revive back again.
Sport is a major contributor to the economic and social development of a nation. The industry is estimated to be valued at US$750 billion annually. COVID-19 has posed threats to not only the sports professionals but also for those who are connected indirectly to the industry as well. Millions of jobs are at risk in travel, tourism, transportation, catering and media broadcasting industries. Professional athletes are on the verge of losing their sponsors.
The implications for the sports education sector are also drastic. The closure of educational institutions has affected the national sports ministry, local authorities, sports organizations and NGOs, teachers, scholars, coaches and most importantly, the young learners. The ones who are affected are those who will have to move together to uplift the whole sporting culture.
Implications of COVID-19 on Major Sporting events:
The sporting calendar has been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the most significant disruption since World War II. Only a few countries and territories, such as Hong Kong, Belarus, Turkmenistan, and Nicaragua, have continued professional sporting matches as planned.
Major international sporting events are being rescheduled or cancelled. The 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics which were scheduled for July 2020 in Tokyo, Japan were cancelled and the opening ceremony of the games are rescheduled to July 2021. According to the Japanese officials, the games would attract almost 600,000 international visitors and that would have caused a major health hazard keeping in mind the ongoing pandemic. The World Games in Birmingham, Alabama that was scheduled for July 2021 are rescheduled for July 2022. The Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, is still scheduled for February 2022.
In July 2020, International Cricket Council(ICC) announced that the next edition of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup which was scheduled for 2020 in Australia, is rescheduled to 2022, and the 2021 edition of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup is still scheduled for 2021 and will be hosted by India. On March 13, The Board of Control for Cricket in India(BCCI) announced that the 2020 Indian Premier League will be postponed from 29 March to be held from 15 April 2020. On April 16, BCCI imposed a temporary suspension over the tournament due to the global pandemic. On June 4, BCCI stated that the tournament will be held outside India and on August 2, the official website of IPL2020 posted an article mentioning that the tournament will be played from 19th September to 10th November 2020 in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
Football tournaments are like festivals all around the world. These sporting festivals are being cancelled or being rescheduled. Matches, players, coaches and fans of soccer are suffering across the world. La Liga, Serie A, Premier League, Bundesliga, Champions League, UEFA League and many other seasons of football were affected by Covid-19. Europe has a diverse soccer culture, and the clubs might face a US$1 billion bill if the virus interrupts Europe's soccer season. Media and broadcasting agencies pay almost 6 million in Euros to telecast the season. But the suspensions and rescheduling will cost them a lot! Brazil's WC 2022 qualifiers have been delayed because of Covid-19. Many players are being tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in the isolation of the whole team. Many matches are being played without an audience. Paid live streams are being carried out to recover losses.
Major sporting organizations have come forward to raise awareness about the virus. For example, FIFA, teaming up with the WHO has launched a 'pass the message to kick coronavirus' campaign, calling on people to follow five key steps to stop the spread of the disease-focused on handwashing, coughing etiquette, not touching one's face, physical distance and staying home if feeling unwell.
The impact of COVID-19 on physical activity and well-being:
The pandemic has resulted in the closure of gyms, stadiums, pools, dance and fitness studios, parks, playgrounds. Many individuals are therefore not able to carry out their regular sporting or general fitness activities outdoors. Not stepping outdoors is pushing everyone towards unhealthy practices like having less physical activity, increased screen time, irregular sleep patterns. All these factors at last lead to weight gain and loss of physical fitness. Low-income families have less home space and home exercise equipment, making it difficult to engage in physical activities. The WHO suggests 150 minutes of moderate-power or 75 minutes of heavy physical activity every week.
Apart from physical fitness taking a hit, peoples mental health is getting degraded as well. Loss of jobs, weak financial condition, managing households, all these factors have led to depression among individuals.
Future of Sports in Post-COVID Era:
There is no denying the fact that sports will never be the same again. But the show should go on and with some new amendments. Changes should be done to safely carry out sporting events keeping in mind the health of players, coaches, ground staff, etc. These minor yet important changes should be implemented.
The stadium experience would change drastically. Playing in front of an empty stadium will be a common thing. Many of the football matches are being played in empty stadiums, the audience replaced by paper cutouts. Some visitors may be allowed but with social distancing norms. The ground staff would be less in number as there would be less or no audience to manage. The excitement of playing a match in front of a real audience is much different from playing in front of paper cutouts, but to safeguard everyone's safety these norms should be followed.
A professional player needs vigorous training frequently. Coming in contact with a coach or training crew would create health hazards for the players. Few of the sports like swimming or golf would not require physical contact with the coaches while training whereas, in sports like wrestling or martial arts, one can't avoid physical contact for proper training.
Changes in Player Habits:
In cricket or baseball, the bowler uses saliva to clean the ball which should be stopped. While celebrating in between a match, players should avoid physical proximity. Players should not break social distancing rules as they would be threatening the health of themselves and their teammates.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had and will keep on having truly impressive impacts on the sporting scene just as on the physical and mental prosperity of individuals around the globe. Governments and intergovernmental associations may give sports leagues, clubs and associations around the globe, directions identified with wellbeing, work and other universal guidelines and conventions that would apply to future games. The sports ecosystem, containing makers, supporters, fans, organizations, proprietors and players among others, have to discover new answers to relieve the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the universe of sports. We can't just wait to hope for the best but to act together and make our world a better one.
By: Abhishek Kumar