The novel coronavirus has affected even sports. Major organizations are now preventing members of the media from accessing locker rooms after matches, with pressers held in strict compliance of social distancing measures. Other decisions will most likely be made on an as-needed basis, but preparations for any contingency are already being done. National Basketball Association teams have been told to be open to the possibility of holding matches without any paying spectators on hand, initially thumbed down by the Lakers’ LeBron James, by far the league’s biggest draw, but later on accepted as a worst-case option in the interest of public health.
Not coincidentally, the BNP Paribas Open, deemed be even casual observers to be tennis’ unofficial fifth major tournament, flirted with the prospect of going through its schedule while keeping fans away from Indian Wells. With Coachella Valley among those affected by the onset of the virus in California and governor Gavin Newsom having already declared a state of emergency, event officials nixed the concept even though the Association of Tennis Professionals and the Women’s Tennis Association Tours signified their openness to it.
Prior to the cancellation, the BNP Paris Open has declared itself ready for a fortnight’s worth of festivities, which typically attract some half a million people all told. From the setup of hundreds of hand-sanitizing stations to the use of gloves by frontliners and service providers to the pruning down of scheduled player-public interactions, it appeared to have its bases covered. Until, that is, state authorities figured the event to be risky at best and inimical to the interests of Riverside County. Containment was key moving forward, and any congregation for any reason stood to make the work even harder.
The implications are dire, leading decision makers to balance the need for life to go on with the acceptance that sacrifices must be made. Longtime can’t-miss affairs are in danger of being overrun by circumstances, but there can be nothing more important than the preservation of life. And so fingers are being crossed for the Masters and the London Marathon to push through next month, for the Champion’s League and the French Open to be free of kinks in May, and for the NBA Finals to deliver as promised in June — but with due cognizance that they all take a back seat to the real battles against a virus that can kill.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.