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Sports seek to resume in many nations

SPORTS officials and fans around the world, including ours in the Philippines, will be closely following efforts to reopen sports competitions after several months of lockdowns forced by the coronavirus.

On July 30, the National Basketball Association (NBA) of the United States will seek to restart the games that were suspended last March when several players came down with COVID-19 and various states started banning mass gatherings, including basketball games.

The NBA just wants to complete the 2020-21 season which had 259 games to go when everything was suspended. In the effort to salvage the season, 22 of the NBA’s 30 teams will play “seeding games” starting July 30 to determine 16 playoff teams.

All games will be played on “closed camps” – no spectators – at the Disney World Resort in Florida, with mandatory face masks, no fans, contact tracing, and aggressive testing – but will be covered on television. If any player tests positive for COVID-19, he will immediately go into quarantine.

In another sport, tennis, the world’s No. 1 tennis player, Croatia’s Novak Djokovic, tested positive for the coronavirus after leading an exhibition tournament in Croatia. There should be no problem of distancing in tennis, but it was a charity exhibition and it included dancing. Soon afterwards, Djokovic’s coach – former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic – also tested positive.

The men’s Davis Cup finals were scheduled for this November while the women’s Fed Cup finals were cancelled earlier last April. Both will now be held in November, 2021, instead of the originally scheduled finals in Madrid, Spain, this November.

Soccer football’s Premier League of the United Kingdom also stopped for three months. But football players generally maintain great distances from one another and so the league resumed its season, finally ending it last week with Liverpool as English champions to end a 30-year drought.

Japan was all set to host the Olympics this July and had already welcomed the arrival of the Olympic flame from Greece, where the modern Olympics began in 1896. But after several countries started withdrawing their teams because of the spreading coronavirus, Japan and the International Olympic Committee decided to postpone the Games to next year.

Philippine sports have suffered like the rest of world sports, especially in those where athletes are in close proximity to one another. We miss most especially the basketball and volleyball competitions of both the nation’s colleges and universities and the professional leagues.

We may consider the moves being taken in various countries. Leagues in the US and in Europe to salvage what is left of the year’s games but with provisions to protect their players and spectators through social distancing, face masks, and other safety protocols.

We are as sports-minded as these other nations and we can learn from their experiences. But our main concern should remain the safety of the players and their fans in this continuing period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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