Paris (AFP) – As fans again fill stadiums this summer, a string of Covid-19 cases in major events suggest it is too early to cheer pandemic-free sport.
After being cancelled in 2020 and requiring spectators to test last year, this year’s Wimbledon seemed to signal a return to sunnier days as the United Kingdom relaxed its pandemic rules.
Then 2021 runner-up Matteo Berrettini, 2017 finalist Marin Cilic and Spanish 17th seed Roberto Bautista Agut withdrew.
They had all tested themselves and owned up to their positive results.
“We paid the price, we ate our black bread with a year of bubbles and tests. We all got vaccinated,” said tennis player Alize Cornet before adding: “Covid is part of our lives now.”
British player Liam Broady suggested less well-off competitors might think twice about disqualifying themselves.
“At the end of the day, if you have got a bit of a cold, you play the main draw of Wimbledon for £50,000 and a chance at more. I’m not sure some of the lower-ranked guys are going to, scout’s honour, take themselves away and do a Covid test,” Broady said.
The Women’s Euros which kick off on July 6 in England are also relying on honesty.
France coach Corinne Diacre said her team would do what European governing body UEFA asked “which is not much”.
“The only constraint…imposed on us by UEFA, will be to wear a FFP2 mask when we arrive at the stadium and in the changing rooms,” she said. Adding that the squad would take the masks off “once we are among ourselves.”
“We will have to take them off anyway to play,” she said.
Also in the UK, the rearranged England-India cricket Test, cancelled last year because of fears of an outbreak in the Indian camp, started Friday without visiting captain Rohit Sharma and home wicket-keeper Ben Foakes, both recovering from Covid.
Foakes was forced out after feeling ill and testing positive halfway through England’s last Test with New Zealand.
The same thing happened in Sri Lanka on Friday as all-rounder Angelo Mathews went into isolation before the third day of a Test with Australia.
The world swimming championships in Budapest is relying on self-testing by individuals or teams.
– ‘Covid is everywhere’ –
A few days before the Tour de France started on Friday, the International Cycling Union (UCI) decided to reintroduced tests.
They acted after some 30 riders were forced out of the Tour of Switzerland which ended on June 21 and several cases were detected just before the Tour.
Yet even if a rider tests positive, team doctors, the Tour and the UCI medical director, will discuss the case before deciding whether to remove him from the peloton.
In an event where fans crowd the roadside, Tour boss Christian Prudhomme has asked riders to “refuse selfies and autographs”.
Teams for two of the weekend’s opening summer rugby union internationals have been reshaped by Covid.
The French rugby team faced tougher protocols in Japan. The squad had to undergo three days of quarantine and tests after arriving.
“Unfortunately, we’re used to this,” fly-half Antoine Hastoy told a press conference.
“We’ve been living with it for over two years. We’re doing our best not to let the virus spread through our ranks.”
Second row Thomas Lavault said the squad was trying to balance team spirit with caution.
“We’re still spending time together, we said it was important for us to do so and Covid is everywhere, we all know that.”
Despite Japan’s caution, their own team has been hit. Fly-half Takuya Yamasawa on Friday became the fourth player ruled out of Saturday’s first Test after a positive result.
In New Zealand, the All Blacks have been hit hard ahead of their opener with Ireland with seven members of their coaching and playing staff testing positive by Thursday.
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