by Leo Hainline ’22
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, there was an eerie point in time when the entire sporting world went on pause. While many sporting events were canceled altogether, some major events were postponed to the summer of 2021. This includes the quadrennial Olympic Games and the European Championships (Euros) for soccer.
Although no one knows when stadiums will be packed with fans again, both of these competitions are expected to take place regardless. Even without fans, watching both of these historic competitions will add some quality entertainment to next summer.
Indeed, the Tokyo Olympics will happen next year under any circumstances. According to the International Olympics Committee (IOC), the opening events are planned for July 23, while the closing day is set to be Aug. 8. The IOC is branding it as the “Games that Conquered COVID.” All eyes will be on Japan to see what measures will be implemented in order to host the Games successfully.
Officials have yet to determine whether spectators will be allowed to attend. They are also considering simplifying the opening and closing ceremonies in addition to reducing the number of staff and delegates from each nation. Over 200 countries intended on participating in the Tokyo Olympics prior to the pandemic, but Japan still has strict travel restrictions on most foreign nations.
The 11,000 foreigners entering the country will certainly require constant testing, but the fact that the Games are held in one city will be an advantage logistically. The Olympic Games have a tradition of being held regardless of ongoing global challenges, with the only cancellations in its history due to World War I and World War II.
As for the Euros, one of the biggest tournaments in the world of soccer, the competition is expected to take place from June 11 to July 11 in 12 different host cities. These cities include London, Baku, Munich, Rome, Saint Petersburg, Amsterdam, Bilbao, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, and Glasgow. Usually the tournament is hosted by one or two European nations, but this year it was originally intended to be hosted across the continent to honor the tournament’s 60th anniversary.
Soccer has seen all of its major leagues restart amid the pandemic without a bubble system akin to the ones used in the United States. The Euros are expected to proceed smoothly without one as well.
20 of the 24 teams participating have already been decided, with the remaining qualification games occurring on Nov. 22 for the final four teams. Italy is set to play Turkey at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome for the tournament’s opening match on June 11. Like the Olympics, the status of fans at the stadiums has yet to be determined. While most soccer matches have been played without any fans in attendance, some countries have recently begun to allow in-person viewings.
Even with the United Kingdom being one of the hardest-hit countries during the pandemic, Wembley Stadium in London is set to host the finale of the tournament. The Premier League was planning on reintroducing fans in early October, but a recent uptick in the U.K.’s case counts has pushed back that initiative indefinitely.
While still many months away, it will be interesting to see how both of these major sporting events will be impacted by the ongoing pandemic.