Sports return, slow and steady

Written by Shashank Nair |

Updated: May 6, 2020 2:52:16 pm

Korean Baseball Organisation will kick off on Friday without spectators in the stadiums. (AP Photo)Despite no signs of abatement in cases of coronavirus across the world, some sports are making attempts at a comeback. While Korea starts to find it’s feet after combating the worst of Covid-19, Florida continues to be the saviour of sports in USA, hosting UFC and golf events in the space of a week.
Korea to the rescue
Missing the NBA Playoffs and Major League Baseball? Well, here’s some Korean Baseball Organisation (KBO) League for you.
With Major League Baseball in the US still mulling plans on what to do about its own season, American sports network ESPN signed a contract to broadcast six KBO games per week, starting with Tuesday’s season opener between Daegu’s Samsung Lions and Changwon-based NC Dinos, which the Dinos won 4-0.
The country’s professional soccer leagues will kick off Friday, also without spectators in the stadiums.
As one of the world’s first major professional sports competitions to return to action amid the pandemic, the Korea Baseball Organization has employed various preventive measures aimed at creating safe playing environments.
Players and coaches will go through fever screenings before entering stadiums, while umpires and first- and third-base coaches must wear masks during games. Players are prohibited from high-fiving teammates or signing autographs. Chewing tobacco was banned to prevent spitting.
Masks and latex gloves will be required at training facilities. Fans will be barred from games until the KBO is convinced the risks of infections have been minimized. If any member of a team tests positive for the coronavirus at any point of the season, the league will be shut down for at least three weeks.
UFC 249
On May 9, the UFC will make a return with UFC 249 and will be held in Jacksonville, Florida at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in a closed-door scenario. This event will be highly important to witness and dissect as it will be the first major promotional sporting event that makes a comeback despite most of the world still reeling under the effects of the coronavirus. The UFC may likely show the world the blueprint of how to hold events in a world where no cure for Covid-19 has emerged till now.
“In today’s world, it’s as safe as possible,” said Donald Muzzi, according to ESPN, who will be the chief ringside physician for the Florida State Boxing Commission at UFC 249. “We’re living in a new normal. … We can do closed events, limiting the amount of people. Those that are working will be practicing social distancing.”
The UFC may likely show the world the blueprint of how to hold events in a world where no cure for Covid-19 has emerged till now.ESPN also reported that once fighters, drive or fly into Jacksonville, they will be administered Covid-19 tests – both the diagnostic swab coronavirus test as well as the antibody test. Per an email accessed by ESPN, the UFC will check fighters everyday for symptoms of Covid-19 and take regular temperature checks.
One of the fighters, Donald Cerrone, has chosen to drive down in his RV from Albuquerque, New Mexico all the way to Jacksonville, Florida and stay in the RV itself, rather than put up in a hotel provided by the UFC.
Rory returns
Florida has de-facto become the home of professional sport during the coronavirus pandemic. After allowing the UFC to operate in the state and hold three different events in the space of nine days, it will be providing a return for the sport of golf as well.
Rory McIlroy, the World No 1, will play with Dustin Johnson against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Woolfe in a $4m skins game – a game that has the full backing of the PGA Tour and will be played in the absence of any spectators.
This will be the first time golf makes a return since the Players Championship was abandoned after the first round on March 12. The PGA Tour hopes that their schedules will continue June 11 onwards in Fort Worth, Texas at the Colonial event.
Don’t hold your horses
Next Monday, horse-racing will make a return in France after being temporarily suspended from March 17. The French police have provided permission for races to be held at the ParisLongchamp.
“We have had some strong support from the ministers in charge of racing – the ministers for finance and agriculture so it was more a question of local areas allowing us to proceed,” said France Galop chief executive Olivier Delloye, according to BBC.
Horse-racing has continued without spectators, and with social-distancing protocols, at some tracks in the United States, Australia and Hong Kong. But now with the French allowing events to go across, Britain may follow suit as well. Action can start within a week of any go-ahead from the government, British Horseracing Authority chief executive Nick Rust told BBC Sport.
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