After months of battling through the pandemic, Covid-19’s stranglehold has finally loosened in some countries. Normal life is slowly returning in some parts of the world and that is evidenced by the return of sports in several countries. With the virus still among us, many professional sports leagues and organisations returned with guidelines that they needed to adhere too. Here are details and examples that help answer the questions when did sport return after COVID-19 and how?
When did sport return after Covid-19?
When did football return?
The German Bundesliga kicked off the return of football among Europe’s top 5 leagues since play was suspended in March. On May 16th Borussia Dortmund hosted Schalke 04 in the normally roaring Signal Iduna Park and gave fans their first glimpse of the new normal.
The fixture, known as the Ruhr derby in Germany, would normally be played in front of a raucous crowd but strict safety guidelines needed to be followed and so the match was played with no fans in attendance. Besides the obvious lack of fans, the sight of players socially distancing themselves from each other in the stands certainly needed getting used to.
Meanwhile the English Premier League returned almost exactly a month later with safety guidelines similar to those seen in Germany, including regular Covid-19 testing of players and staff. They also introduced changes to existing rules to cater to the unique situation such as allowing five substitutions and one water break per half.
When will the NBA return?
The Coronavirus situation in the USA is still uncertain in many areas and the National Basketball Association (NBA) is still in the middle of its hiatus. However, after months of uncertainty the NBA has finally released its plans to restart the league on July 30, albeit in a much different scenario in terms of venue and schedule.
To ensure safety guidelines are followed by players and to limit travel, the NBA will be hosted by the Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. Games will be held inside the Arena, Field House and Visa Athletic Centre and with no live audience.
The remaining 15-20 games that were left for each team when the NBA stopped on March 11, 2020 will be scrapped. The NBA will then follow a modified schedule with only 22 of the 30 teams being asked to participate based on the standings when the season stopped. As of writing, the situation in America has worsened in some areas including Florida so it remains to be seen when will the NBA return if it returns at all.
When did golf return?
Around the same time other sports were beginning to feel the effects of COVID-19, the PGA tour also had to suspend play. A total of nine tournaments have been cancelled and 11 postponed to a later date. Since then, after over a two-month hiatus, the players have finally returned to the tee box.
The Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas played host to the Charles Schwab Challenge from June 11-14 in what was the first PGA tournament since play was stopped.
Like other sports, there were no fans in the gallery and players and staff had to undergo regular COVID-19 testing before the tournament started. Social distancing was also practiced by those present.
When did the UFC return?
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is widely considered as the first major sport organisation to come back after the onset of COVID-19. The UFC’s president, Dana White, controversially planned to go ahead with UFC 249 which was originally scheduled for April 18th. As late as April 6th, White insisted that the event will still happen until pressure from ESPN and its parent company Disney forced him to relent just three days after.
The event was postponed to May 9th which marked the first major sports event to be held since the pandemic. UFC 249 was held in VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida with no audience and strict medical protocols in place which critics say were not always followed.
Since then several UFC events have taken place at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. In a highly anticipated event, White also plans to host a UFC event on an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi famously dubbed Fight Island on July 11.
When did Formula 1 return?
The Formula 1 (F1) calendar was thrown into oblivion when the pandemic struck as it wiped out the proposed start to the F1 2020 season. F1 is unique in that its season takes them across the globe with 21 different countries hosting the motorsport, making the logistics next to impossible during a pandemic.
The first 10 races of the season were either cancelled or postponed including the iconic Monaco Grand Prix. The drivers have since returned to the cockpit with the first race taking place on July 5 in Austria with no fans in the circuit. The race is the first among eight others scheduled, with F1 looking to add more races as things improve around the world. However, with still so much uncertainty around COVID-19, the F1 calendar is still very much fluid.
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