The Impact of Covid-19 on Global Sporting Events

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

Sport has been singled-out by many commentators, influencers and leaders as a mechanism/vehicle to unite people across cultural and racial divides. It is evident more so, in a country such as South Africa, with its segregated past and sporting isolation realities.

Lewis Hamilton, Formula One Nine-Time World Champion, was one of the first sporting personalities to publically speak out about the lack of action from sporting federations in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. His utterances were during a press conference for the Australian Grand Prix event; this after the number of global infections reaching alarming reported cases, more especially in China. Lewis spoke out about the lack of action by Formula One at the time. Some viewed it as either brave or career limiting; because of the number of stakeholders involved in the complex sporting code.

Hamilton calls out F1 for putting 'cash' before paddock's safety amid corona virus fears

"I am really very, very surprised that we're here. I don't think it's great that we have races but it really is shocking that we're all sitting in this room," Hamilton said at an official pre-race press conference packed with media.

By speaking out, Formula One announced the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix and postponement of other races, indefinitely. This was a sign and the start of things to happen; other sporting codes followed soon after.

Various Soccer Premier League events continued for a while, with dwindling number of fans attending the games, due to the increased coverage relating to the impact of the pandemic on humanity. There were a few soccer matches played in empty stadia, in response to curb the spread of the virus.

Professional players started to announce that players and officials agreed to cut their salaries to ensure the liquidity and economic viability of their sports and clubs.

Some soccer venues offered their facilities for make-shift and temporary hospitals and quarantine venues.

An article appeared in Time Magazine with the title:

'Game Zero?' Soccer Game Attended by 40,000 Fans Likely Made This Italian City a Coronavirus Epicentre

By staging the game was probably one of the worst decisions by all involved; all this, while the world was facing a new way of life and the unknown. But it was not that all doom and gloom; one of the clubs, in Italy, handed out survival kits and parcels to their older club members, by the players, who were identified as the most vulnerable.

Other sports like US basketball were very proactive and announced cancellations of games in response to the pandemic. More well-known sporting personalities and clubs announced players who have contracted the virus, to illustrate that the Covid-19, does not discriminate or target specific people in communities, everyone is vulnerable.

Cancellation of sporting tournaments, events and team practice sessions became accepted daily announcements. But one global sporting event kept everyone in suspension. Canada was the first country to announce that it will not be sending a Team to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to protect their athletes and officials against dangers of Covid-19. This after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that it still need to make a decision regarding the hosting of the event scheduled to take place from Jul 24 - Aug 9 2020 in Japan. The increased criticism and negative publicity led to the IOC finally announcing the postponement of the Games to June 2021.

The Olympics have been cancelled only three times in history — in 1916, 1940 and 1944 — all because of world wars.Planning and construction of infrastructure for the event started immediately after and before the final event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.It would have been the second time Japan hosted the 2020 event; their first Games was in 1964.All stakeholders are affected, from host nation, local organising

committee, sponsors, athletes, public and the sporting community, ultimately. It’s a first for this decade and unprecedented on many levels. The financial implications as a result of postponement of the Games, which will be exceptionally high, have not yet been announced, but it will have an impact on the legacy of Japan 2020. One can only assume billions of dollar losses.

The Australian Open was one of the only major sporting events staged in 2020 uninterrupted. This, after the devastating wild fires, which have ravaged the country for almost six months leading up to the tournament. Hosting of the event was also debated due to air quality concerns and public sentiment and moral. In the end, Australia hosted another successful major tennis tournament and raised funds to assist the affected by the devastation.

The swift cancellation announcement by the All England Lawn Tennis Club regarding Wimbledon 2020 left so many people disappointed. Once again, the first time the tournament has been cancelled since World War 2. Although the announcement was met with disappointment, the public are in support of the decision due to the current Covid-19 pandemic reality, with more than 1 million worldwide reported infections.

Locally, all domestic rugby, soccer, cricket, netball, and all other sporting codes have also been postponed; aligned to global actions.

Innovation, collaboration and creativity are just some of the actions, plans and interventions, which will be required by all stakeholders in the recovery, renewal and revitalisation of sports across the globe. All stakeholders need to be onboard from the onset and kept engaged to ensure speedy recovery.

It will be sports in the area of Covid-19 and will be require a new and fresh perspective and outlook on how we approach and view sports. Ultimately, it was not a question of Us and Them, but All of Us Together to make it happen.

Three sporting codes also saw the introduction of online entertainment for the fans. Players from the NBA, Formula One and Cycling played against each other to keep their fans engaged and entertained. The NBA players went as far as raising funds for Covid-19 victims with their online games. Yet again, demonstrating the important role sport plays in the life’s of so many people the over the globe.

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