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Tour de France Still A Go Despite Pandemic

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Tour De France is the world’s toughest multiple stage bicycle race as it consists of 21 days of grueling cycling stages for around 23 days. Die-hard cyclists would have the privilege of cycling through the majority of France, together with nearby countries. The race consists of a nice run outside Nice, avoiding the Alps, and ending in a mass bunch sprint—all while battling chilly weather and frequent rain showers. Because of its prestige and renown, challenging cycling stages, it has been dubbed as the world’s most prestigious and most difficult bicycle race. 

Adapting to the New Normal

Under normal circumstances, the Tour De France is usually hosted every July, but since 2020 is anything not normal, the Tour De France, together with the majority of other sports events, got rescheduled to August 29, 2020. The International Cycling Union announced this in April as they saw how the virus worsened the situation of every country in the world, including as a response to the government’s tightening protocols.

Meet the Teams

The 2020 Tour De France Cohort consists of 22 teams that were announced in January 2020. Tour De France officials and coordinators were all set to facilitate the race as planned when a Nice, the host city of the tournament, was placed under a Covid-19 Red Zone because of an alarming increase of cases in the area, including four members of 1 team who received a positive Covid-19 result. 

With this, the team had to put in place even stricter controls to make sure that the spread of the virus will be minimal to no risk, and to push through with the prestigious tournament. Among the tighter controls include just having a few dozen people to commemorate the start of the tournament, most of whom are organizers of the event.

The annual team parade and fan park imposed a 1000 spectator crowd limit as compared to thousands and thousands of crowds it gathered in the past. Those who did not abide in social distancing protocols, especially in tourist areas such as the beachside and Nice’s terrace-lined squares, were plastered with fines of around 150 pounds.

The Tour De France team also had to undergo mandatory nasal tests to determine if they have contracted the deadly virus. If two team members of the same team had positive Covid-19 results, they automatically got disqualified from the race. 

Foreseeing Problems

Tour De France officials mentioned in an interview that they foresaw the increase of rising Covid-19 patients and had to adapt to the current situation quickly. According to Bernard Gonzales, the regional prefect of the tour, they quickly had to shift from having tight protocols to having even tighter protocols. Another strict imposition they had to put is banning any vans or pop-up villages on the mountain summits for Stage 2 to limit the possibility of the virus spreading. Anyone involved with the tour – from the staff to the riders also had a mandatory test.

The winner of the race will get to wear the prestigious yellow jersey, and the best sprinter will get to wear the green jersey. Among the crowd, favorites are Australian Caleb Ewan, who feels more pressure this year as compared to 2019 as he will attempt to win the coveted jerseys.

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Sports World Today Still Heavily Affected by Covid-19

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The unprecedented outbreak of the novel coronavirus badly impacted the normal sports routine worldwide. Massive suspension and cancellation of various sports events were initiated in a move to curb the rapid transmission of the deadly virus earlier this year. Let’s take a look, however, at the condition of the sports world today.

In the world of basketball, Mississippi coach Kermit Davis unfortunately tests positive for COVID-19. His condition might result to him being placed at the sidelines when the season finally begins. The news was announced earlier on Tuesday, adding that Davis will undergo a second test. If he, however, tests positive again, he will be forced to opt out of the Rebels’ first couple of games as he will be required to go through self-quarantine at home.

To offset his absence, though, Ronnie Hamilton is expected to play as head coach during the upcoming home events on November 25 and 26. The Rebels are scheduled to go against Central Arkansas and Jackson State on the said dates. To soften the blow, Davis will be allowed to watch through the practice sessions and even contact the team via virtual means.

During the scheduled basketball season opening, the Indiana Hoosiers won’t have the usual live audience to cheer them on. According to school authorities, the stands will indefinitely remain empty. Nevertheless, officials plan to work closely with local health authorities and the campus and Big Ten leaders to find out when fans can be permitted to enter the Assembly Hall.

The sports world today is anticipating the time when new normal protocols will provide them easier gameplay. As for the Hoosiers, they are used to having the biggest basketball student fanbase.

To stem the lack of live audience, the university plans to put cutouts for sale. These cutouts will be placed on the empty seats. They will be priced at US$25 a piece with the option of having either women’s coach Teri Moren or men’s coach Archie Miller autograph these cutouts which will, then, be sent to the fans who purchase the tickets. Also, ticket buyers are guaranteed to avail of refunds or simply avail of the different options via the varsity club’s online site.

As for Tennessee Tech, the school is presently undergoing a difficult time with regard to their attempt to begin their women’s basketball season. Vanderbilt cancelled their game and then Chattanooga followed suit.

On Tuesday morning, Vanderbilt announced the necessity of cancelling their game against Tennessee Tech that was scheduled for November 25 due to the sudden occurrence of positive tests among their athletes. Following that announcement, Chattanooga made a similar call, stating the need to halt activities for a two-week quarantine. The said move resulted to the cancellation of their schedule games against Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech.

Indeed, the sports world today is still reeling from the hideous impacts of the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak. At present, it is not only basketball events that are being cancelled and suspended. Several other sports are being halted, as well, as sports authorities struggle to find a way to conduct their events while observing the new normal protocols.

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Asian Soccer Resets Delayed Schedule for World Cup Qualifiers

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Schedules of the Asian qualifying games for the upcoming World Cup in 2022 were discussed and reset by the Asian Football Confederation on Wednesday. This is due to the said schedule’s suspension following the COVID-19 outbreak and corresponding lockdowns that began earlier in March this year.

There were no qualifiers that got played this year due to the sudden onset of the pandemic. The AFC announces that the games will resume in March and June, following the dates set and secured by FIFA as the different national teams decide on the roster of players tasked to represent them from clubs.

In preparation for the rescheduled Asian qualifying games, the consequential group staging, composed of a couple of six-team groups, shall be rescheduled all throughout September 2021 until March 2022. Subsequently, January 24 to February 1, 2022 shall be used to accommodate the new slots formulated by FIFA, aiding other national teams that are outside Europe to clear their accumulated games backlog.

As a result, four Asian teams from the said schedules shall join the final competition that will take place in Qatar. After that, a couple of teams from the Qatar event shall compete in the final eliminations to pinpoint Asia’s representative for the upcoming intercontinental playoffs.

To make way for the offset caused by the unprecedented coronavirus issue, FIFA lengthened the World Cup’s qualifying event. The extension was set to May until June 2022, providing much needed accommodation for delayed intercontinental playoff games. During the planned event, a single team represents North America, South America, Asia, and Oceania. Eliminations will determine the last couple of places for the World Cup’s 32-team lineup.

To date, one of the Asian qualifying games shall be played in 2020. According to Qatar’s own soccer federation on Wednesday, the country shall be hosting Bangladesh this coming December 4. As host, Qatar is permitted to automatically join the scheduled World Cup in 2022. Also, the present group stage is also allowed qualification for the upcoming 2023 Asian Cup that will take place in China. Qatar is the current defending champion. It is leading its own qualifying group, having three remaining matches on its sleeve.

Asian qualifying games, the necessary elimination playoffs for the scheduled 2022 World Cup event, were heavily impacted by the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak. Various games had to be cancelled and suspended to control infection as health protocols stressed the need for physical distancing procedures, the wearing of face masks, and heightened sanitation strategies.  

Earlier this year, various sports events similarly had to be cancelled and rescheduled all over the world as needed lockdowns were imposed by governments to slow down and halt the spread of the virus. At present, many sports are devising bubble techniques to permit the gradual relaunching of activities as athletes are expected to maintain strict social distancing and increased hygiene routines to coincide with the new normal. Aside from the Asian qualifying games, various game events are also expected to resume with many of them planning to use bubble strategies to accommodate live audiences once again.

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Professional Sports Offer COVID-19 Bubble Safety Lessons for the World

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The NBA plans to resume events in December. The NHL wants to schedule games in January. Baseball training may start again in February. All these sports activities may happen with the use of some COVID-19 bubble set up, as well.

Nevertheless, there are essential lessons to be learned by adopting a bubble environment. The Major League Baseball, NHL, and NBA each found a way to continue their games up to the finals despite the unstable conditions. These safety techniques can be used by other sports, as well.

Different sets of new rules are being put in place in almost every field of sport. Everyone is stressing on the necessity of enhanced safety protocols. If these COVID-19 bubble rules prove to work, then in time, almost all sports could be watched by live audiences once again. Maybe, these new protocols may even spread to the real world and provide more common sense to the bigger population.

“The testing isn’t what made it successful, the testing sort of showed that it was successful,” explains David Weiss, NBA’s senior vice president. “But the thing that made it successful in the first place was the adherence to all those protocols that most people can follow most of the time in their lives,” he continues.

No magic trick was employed in either the NHL or the NBA games. The same standard COVID-19 bubble safety measures were applied: wearing of face masks, sanitizing of hands, and social distancing among participants.

NBA teams were in a three-month bubble and the Los Angeles Lakers won the finals. The NHL playoffs were done in a 65-day COVID-19 bubble, as well, and Tampa Bay got the Stanley Cup. Officials note that all three of the abovementioned safety measures were followed even until the finals.  

“It was unique but hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” shares Bill Daly, NHL’s deputy commissioner.

Experts argue that, in time, it may be possible to have fans watching in the sidelines again. With the consistent practice of practical COVID-19 bubble safety protocols—the wearing of face masks, frequent washing of hands, social distancing, and the use of dedicated entry-exit points, live audiences will soon be allowed to watch their favorite teams again.

Revenue from ticket sale is important. The NHL mentions that approximately half of its earnings come from the sale of tickets. MLB shares that it lost about $3 billion because of the empty seats. The NBA lost around $1.5 billion, as well.

There are limited crowds now during game events. The need to reduce the number of attendees is a must as the world grapples with the pandemic. Discovering a safe way to let more fans watch live games, though, is important as officials admit that adequate ticket sales keep these games alive.

“Some of the basics that we saw around really consistent use of masks, really focusing on distance, really being careful about settings that involve eating and drinking and really rigorous and hygiene and cleaning, you saw all of that. That adds up to a lot of protection,” stresses Weiss, referring back to the crucial necessity to halt possible COVID-19 transmission and the need to perpetuate some sort of the same COVID-19 bubble during events.

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