Sports have the power to encourage people who watch them. It is desirable to resume sports activities in a step-by-step manner while carefully examining the situations on how well the spread of the new coronavirus is controlled.
In professional sports, where official games or matches have been suspended or postponed due to the effects of the virus, moves to resume them have become noticeable.
In Taiwan and South Korea, the professional baseball season has started. Taiwan, which initially held games behind closed doors, has come to allow 2,000 spectators into games.
In soccer, in addition to the opening of South Korea’s K League, Germany’s Bundesliga resumed with no spectators, the first resumption among major leagues in Europe.
This would raise the hopes of people who have been restricted from going out so far.
An announcement has been made that Japan’s professional baseball season will begin on June 19. Games will be held with no spectators for a while because of the measures against the virus. Soccer’s J.League is also aiming to resume matches in late June to early July. Those decisions are made out of consideration for proposals from a team of experts on infectious diseases.
Professional baseball and J.League are both developing guiding principles for games. If the virus spreads among players and staff, it is possible that there may be no choice but to suspend games again. Detailed infection prevention measures are essential.
To make sure that there is no fear of infection, it is important to conduct antibody tests or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which will lead to creating an environment in which players can perform without anxiety.
In order to reduce the risk of infection, games must be scheduled so as to minimize players’ travel. Efforts such as asking players on the bench to wear masks or to ban players from doing high fives can be considered.
Games with no spectators are expected to eventually be shown on the internet or broadcast on television, letting viewers enjoy players’ dynamic performances.
A decision to hold games with spectators will be made after confirming how well the infection situation has been controlled in regional areas. Initiatives such as checking spectators’ temperatures and maintaining distance between them are important.
It is required to increase attendance in stages while verifying the effectiveness of the measures against infection at venues.
And then there are contact sports.
In sumo, wrestlers physically clash, and training generally occurs in an enclosed space. The tragic news came this month that a 28-year-old sumo wrestler on the active list had died of the virus.
The Japan Sumo Association has continued to conduct antibody tests for all members of the association, including sumo wrestlers and stablemasters. It is hoped that effective measures can be taken, even considering the nature of the competition.
— This article appeared in the print version of The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 27, 2020.