Why Flexible COVID Arrangements are Needed for Sports Events
Updated: Jan 10
With new infections mounting to 10,021 as of 5 Sep, it may sound perfectly ‘normal’ for the government to impose new measures curbing the gathering of large group of people. Will ‘one size fits all’ cancel all the sports events? Let’s take a closer look and the considerations could be more than your imagination.
You’ve heard of the news about how the short-notice 500-people cap have led to the cancellation of Tin Shui Wai 10K run, and Hong Kong Open Badminton Championships (an ‘M’ Mark Event). Other ‘M’ Mark Events such as Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races and Cross Harbour Race are under scrutiny. It also casted uncertainty on HK Sevens (4-6 Nov), arguably the most popular international sporting event/carnival in Hong Kong, as well as locals’ favourite fund-raising team challenge Oxfam Trailwalker (22 Nov-12 Dec). [Source]
While judging if a sporting event should go ahead, first we need to understand the nature and operation of the event, then evaluate if there will be a high risk of outburst. There are three major considerations when it comes to the categorisation:
1. Mass Participation or Exhibition-based?
Among the different types of sports events, basically we can separate them into mass participation or exhibition-based. For the mass participation type, it means it is open for public and normally a high number of participants will be joining the events. For the exhibition-based type, the number of athletes/players is confined to a very low one – normally the athletes/players are at the top of their class, that’s why they can ‘exhibit’ their skills.
2. Indoors or Outdoors?
Another parameter would be whether the sports event will be conducted indoors or outdoors. In other words, whether there is enough ventilation in the venue.
3. Living in the Bubble?
It is crucial if there will be participants from overseas who will need quarantine exemption. To elaborate, to plan and operate a ‘bubble’ that keeps the overseas players away from the local community involves HUGE effort and manpower, pending the personal/team’s preference of the participants of whether they are willing to be ‘isolated’ throughout the sports event.
By dissecting the sports events, it becomes clear now which type will bear higher risk of causing an outburst in town and which type will be relatively safer to the public. An analogy could be a good example to illustrate why some events are going ahead while some are called off. The famous Hong Kong male band, Mirror, has held their concerts in the Hong Kong Coliseum in August. Before and after that, other famous singers, Joyce Cheng, Hins Cheung and Terence Lam had their concerts in the same venue that can house 8,500 spectators altogether. What would be the difference between attending one of these concerts and watching world-class players to exhibit their skills in a tournament?
Case Study: Hong Kong Masters 2022
The Hong Kong Masters 2022, an invitational snooker tournament to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region establishment, will be held at the Hong Kong Coliseum from 6th to 9th October this year. The organiser, Hong Kong Billiards Sports Council Co., has invited the World Ranking Top 1-6 players to come to Hong Kong to compete with Hong Kong famous players Marco Fu and On-yee Ng. Yello Sports Marketing has helped to manage the event and plan for the ‘bubble’ for players to ensure they are separated from the public while the players will be exempted from quarantine (subject to the final approval from the Department of Health as of 5th September). With the potential occupancy of 8,500 per session, it will potentially be a snooker tournament attended by the largest number of spectators in history and that is one of the reasons of the players are willing to come into the ‘bubble’ – they want to be part of it. The other reason is that they have very fond memories of the passionate, welcoming Hong Kong snooker fans back in the Hong Kong Masters 2017 (which was held in the Queen Elizabeth Stadium).
With the growing interest and attention in sports in Hong Kong, we hope the policy makers would consider the value of having sports events versus the risk of outburst by scrutinising the difference in the nature of the events. Hope that more and more local and world-class sports events could be coming back to Hong Kong soon.
Read more: Recap of recent policy changes and the impacts on sports events.