Sports around the globe continued to face the wrath of the coronavirus pandemic as events were rapidly cancelled or forced to play behind closed doors. The pandemic has impacted around 157 countries. As of Monday, there have been around 169,652 cases worldwide with around 6,518 deaths and about 77,766 people who have recovered.
The spate of cancellations was a direct result of several players, coaching staff and support staff being detected as having contracted the virus, increasing the rise of everyone involved. The monetary loss -- although difficult to calculate immediately -- will be substantial and impact grassroot sport as well as sport in smaller nations hugely.
Having resisted cancellations and postponements for the longest time, even Indian sport has fallen in line, the Board of COntrol for Cricket in India (BCCI) -- which was the slowest to react -- forcing to postpone its flagship event, the IPL till April 15.
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Many events which includes an Irani Cup fixture between the newly crowned Ranji Trophy champion Saurashtra and the Rest of India, scheduled on March 18-22 in Rajkot, has also been put on hold.
Other tournaments that have faced postponements are the Senior Women's One-Day Knockout, the Senior Women's One-Day Challenger, the Women's Under-19 One-Day Knockout, the Women's Under-19 T20 League, the Women's Under-19 T20 Challenger Trophy, the Women's Under-23 Knockout, the Women's Under-23 One-Day Challenger, and the Vizzy Trophy (50-overs Inter-Zonal Universities tournament).
In a statement, the BCCI reiterated its concern for its stakeholders and public health in general, to justify the measures it has taken. The statement also says the tournaments will be conducted keeping in mind guidelines received by the government to safeguard public health as a whole. “The BCCI will work closely with the Government of India along with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and all other relevant central and state government departments in this regard,” Jay Shah, secretary, BCCI, said in the statement.
With the Delhi government banning all sports activities in the city amidst the COVI-19 outbreak there is a strong chance that even when the IPL does come back on, it will be a severely restricted tournament with venue shifts and empty arenas a distinct possibility.
While the central sports ministry said it would not stop sporting events from taking place as long as they adhere strictly to governmental guidelines, discouraging mass gatherings, the external affairs (foreign) ministry has gone a step further, saying its advice is to not go ahead with the tournament at this time. The final decision has been left to the organisers. A meeting between the IPL governing council and representatives of the eight franchises is scheduled for tomorrow.
Cricket is hardly the only sport facing crises. The Indian women hockey team which was given a week long break from training have been forced to go back into the SAI centre in Bengaluru, quarantined to prevent anyone from contracting the virus. Several members had made it to the Kempegowda International airport when they were informed of the cancellation of the break and asked to return to campus.
Even the team’s coach Sjoerd Marijne, who was travelling home in the wee hours of Saturday to be with his family had to turn back and head to the campus. The 45-year-old did not want to risk travel and quarantine on return.
“Had to turn around on my way to the airport to go to my family. The risk is too great that I can’t return to India. Hard times for everyone and for me now that I can’t see my family and I don’t know when this is going to happen,” he tweeted.
In the midst of all this, sportspersons from across the world have united in spreading awareness and advocating calm in the midst of panic.
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Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin took to Twitter to express his disappointment with the way the people of Chennai have been handling themselves amid the COVID-19 outbreak.The health agencies guidelines recommending social distancing to curb the deadly virus seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Ashwin summed it up succinctly.
"Let me rephrase it, social distancing doesn't seem to have caught the attention of the people in Chennai yet. The only reason could be their belief in the summer to curtail it or just faith that nothing will happen. #Coronaindia," Ashwin tweeted on Sunday.
Last week the NBA season decided on a 30 day minimum hiatus after Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert tested positive for Covid-19. Gobert gave an update on his health in a video posted to the NBA's twitter account on Sunday asking people to be safe.
Gobert even issued an initial apology on Thursday for being careless. “ I want to thank everyone for the outpouring concern and support over the last 24 hours. I have gone through so many emotions since learning of my diagnosis. Mostly fear, anxiety and embarrassment,” he said, “The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered. At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and I make no excuses. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously. I will do whatever I can to support using my experience as a way to educate others and prevent the spread of the virus.”
Following the NBA's announcement, many players took to social media to express their opinions on the season being suspended. Most of them were in agreement that safety and concern for public well being came first.
LeBron James and Steph Curry the two global superstars of the league went a step further, making a strong case for not just the season but the year itself to be cold shelved. James tweeted, “Man we cancelling sporting events, school, office work, etc etc. What we really need to cancel is 2020! Damn it’s been a rough 3 months. God bless and stay safe.” Curry went with the more reaffirming, “2020 aint it. Don't know what to compare this situation to…just gotta buckle up and take care of yourself and those around you. Basketball will be back at some point but right now, protect yourself and stay safe out there!”
With multiple new cases being reported everyday, self isolation and quarantines have become the norm of the day. In such a scenario cancellation of large scale sporting events and the inevitable long empty hours add to the sense of doom. Best to follow Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo’s message.“Basketball becomes secondary... Take care of yourselves and your family. Wash your hands often.”
You could also just call up all your friends, head out to a balcony, and do this.