EURO 2020 - A worldwide sports event during pandemic
I have written on the predictions of the impact of COVID-19 on the Sports industry. We now can see how many of them have come true and what are rather the eye-openers.
Have you watched any EURO 2020 games this year? When Hungary was playing against Portugal at Puskas Arena, Budapest (see photo), I thought I was watching the replay of some game from the past if there was no "LIVE" watermark on-screen – the game was full house (more than 60,000 attendance) and almost no one was wearing a mask. The fans were cheering, chanting and shouting throughout the game as if COVID-19 had never existed in that parallel universe. I think most of the audience somehow shared the same confusion or déjà vu as mine and wondered what was going on in that match.
During the half-time break, I checked it up and found the "reasons" for such a parallel universe:
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is a football aficionado.
All the spectators were required to be vaccinated and had to show their vaccination cards to enter the stadium.
The vaccination programme in Hungary has progressed quite well, which 32.7% of citizens were vaccinated as of 26 May 2021.
Cristiano Ronaldo would be staring at this match (yes, he is one of the reasons).
We are in the midst of EURO 2020 and we haven't heard of any outbreak of COVID-19 from Hungary (or in other European countries). What does it tell us?
1. People are hungry for mega sports events
With COVID-19 being the everyday headline in the last 18 months, people are experiencing pandemic fatigue and are missing real gatherings, be it playing sports themselves or watching games together. EURO 2020 is the ignite point and testing platform for organising mega events under the new normal as we, as said by the new British Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid, “learn to live with the virus”.
2. Precautionary measures work
While vaccination helps protect people from COVID-19 scientifically and psychologically, precautionary measures such as travel bubble, vaccination VISA and pass, sufficient disinfectant and detailed zoning make it possible to organise large-scale events without compromising on the safety of stakeholders and participants. That means we, the event professionals, have to be equipped with a new set of event management concept and hands-on knowledge of all potential and feasible precautionary measures.
3. Passion is the key
EURO 2020 would not have happened without the passion of Viktor Orbán and football fans all over the world. Sports is the industry where passion is gathered, grown, spread and learnt. The COVID-19 (or DELTA) will very likely still be around for a while, we the organisers will need to balance the passion and the fear and make sports events sustainable (or keep the ball rolling, literally, for football).
Tokyo 2020 Olympics is just two weeks away. I believe that just like me, many of you can’t wait for this adrenaline-boosting mega sports event and many more to come. Wish all the athletes, coaches, staff and people in Japan all the best and stay healthy!