New rules of play in Covid-19 era
Cricket, NBA and Formula 1 have bubbles and mini-bubbles for all players and venues. Over 800 people are locked inside Disneyworld in Orlando, in the NBA’s bubble.Updated: Aug 09, 2020 12:55 IST
Press conferences on Zoom, the eerie silence of empty stands, and the bio-bubble — a 24x7 cocoon separating players from the rest of the world: this is sport in the time of Covid-19.
LOCKED IN A BUBBLE
Cricket, NBA and Formula 1 have bubbles and mini-bubbles for all players and venues. Over 800 people are locked inside Disneyworld in Orlando, in the NBA’s bubble.
The bio-bubble is the new pandemic -era protocol where everyone associated with a sporting event goes into a little cocoon away from the outside world. Teams and staff stay put in hotels locked off entirely for them and are ferried to and from practice games and matches; only people inside the bubble are allowed into the sporting venues.
Recreational spaces like game rooms, salon services, even fishing areas, are pre-selected and sealed off from those outside the bubble.
English cricketer Jofra Archer made news for stopping at his home and thereby breaking the bubble. He was suspended for it, fined, and widely criticised for placing the entire Test series with the West Indies at risk.
FC Augsburg coach Heiko Herrlich had to miss his team’s restart match after he left his room to buy tooth paste.
What happens when there’s no bubble? Ask Novak Djokovic and all the others who tested positive along his tour route in June.
SILENCE IN THE STANDS
The stands are empty for football, cricket, F1 and the NBA.
There have been exceptions. The Palermo Ladies Open on August 3, allowed a few spectators. A friendly county match between Surrey and Middlesex in July saw 1,000 spectators as part of a pilot event to bring crowds back in the UK.
But organisers of the postponed Tokyo Olympics (now 2021) are now discussing holding the Games without spectators next year.
Top European football leagues have begun to use artificial crowd noise to counter the eerie silence from the empty stands. Other sports are experimenting with cutouts of people in the stands, or giant screens around the field of play.
India has had a taste of virtual innovation too. The 3TC Solidarity cricket series being played in SA was beamed live with the four commentators working from home — Irfan Pathan in Vadodara, Sanjay Manjrekar in Mumbai, Deep Dasgupta in Kolkata and anchor Jatin Sapru in New
Most media interactions arebeing hosted on Zoom, with journalists working from home.
MARKING A WIN
Handshakes, hugs and high-fives between players have given way to fistbumps and nods.
Formula 1 has abandoned its podium ceremony, which ended with drivers being sprayed with champagne. “This is the new norm... for the year,” sporting director Ross Brawn said.
(text by Rutvick Mehta)