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Omicron puts fresh stress on elite sport

South Africa is feeling the brunt of the new variant. The International Hockey Federation has had to postpone the women’s junior World Cup.

Published: 29th November 2021 07:44 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th November 2021 07:44 AM   |  A+A-

FC Bayern Munich defensive midfielder Joshua Kimmich

FC Bayern Munich defensive midfielder Joshua Kimmich, who was unvaccinated, tested positive for covid recently. (Photo | AP)

Over the last few weeks, the world of sport has faced a renewed threat from Covid. As it enters a new phase in Europe, unvaccinated players (Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich have had two positive tests), a fourth wave that threatens to bar fans from stadia and the emergence of a new variant, Omicron, could all yet contribute to put sport under duress again. South Africa is feeling the brunt of the new variant. The International Hockey Federation has had to postpone the women’s junior World Cup.

The International Cricket Council cancelled the women’s World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe. The upcoming full-fledged India tour of South Africa in cricket could be in jeopardy as scientists race against time to unearth more information. With the variant already in Europe, the hugely popular December football matches there could face the axe. Even otherwise, fans, who had just started filling the stands, may be asked to stay home. Financial losses ran into billions in the 2019-2020 and 2020-21 football seasons in Europe. According to reports, UEFA had said their top clubs were expected to lose more than $10 billion due to Covid, with around $4.5 billion due to lack of ticket sales. This would in turn impact the transfer market with clubs spending less on buying players. Other events could be affected.

China hosts the Winter Olympics in a few months and it needs to be seen how it tackles this. Will it insist on putting all athletes in hard two-week quarantine or demand all of them be given booster doses before allowing them to enter the country? The focus is again on the refusal of players to take the vaccine. The Bundesliga in Germany has already started docking salaries of unvaccinated players. Australia too is in the news. The country that has endured one of the world’s harshest lockdowns will play host to 2021’s first Grand Slam and has said no unvaccinated player would be allowed to enter it.

With uncertainty over events and various restrictions in place in different countries, athletes once again would have to endure the predicament of cancellations and rescheduling of events. This could also add to the mental stress on players. One hopes the new variant doesn’t turn into another nightmare.



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