Saturday, October 16

The pandemic changes the needles of sport | sports

Japanese swimmer Mikado IEEE, with the Olympic torch at the Tokyo Stadium.
Japanese swimmer Mikado IEEE, with the Olympic torch at the Tokyo Stadium.POOL / Reuters

It makes sense that the great professional sports rush until the last day of the year of the pandemic that plagues the world, steamroller of medieval resonances that has deepened social inequality. Sport was no exception. A few competitions, the best connected with the economic resources of television and sponsors, have managed to surf, not without difficulties, the tsunami that has devastated the geography of sport.

The suspension of the Tokyo Games symbolizes this singular moment, with no other precedent than the cancellations in the two world wars of the 20th century. An unknown virus just a year ago has produced consequences for sport perhaps more serious than on those occasions. Although the Olympic Games maintain their status as the existential reserve of a huge sports galaxy, largely unrelated to the conditions that govern professional football, the NBA, the ATP tennis or the golf circuit, its current structure bears little relation to the prevalent model in the 1920s and after the Second World War.

The Games drifted decade by decade into professional sports, the television market, political influence and greed. Towards gigantism and business, in short. It is difficult to know how they will come out of the uncertainties that threaten their celebration in the summer of 2021. A wild forceps is guessed, it is not known under what health, social, economic and sports conditions. There are more unknowns than certainties. For sports such as soccer, basketball or tennis, the consequences will be minor, few in some of them. For the rest, the cancellation would mean a nuclear winter.

The four-year Olympic cycle is the food for athletes who orbit far from the powerful professional business. They represent 90% of the participants in the Games. They are already affected by the hardships of the pandemic. Added to the temporary cancellation of Tokyo 2020 is the change of needles in the priorities of governments, subjected throughout the planet to the pressure of a devastating economic crisis. Sports subsidies are falling everywhere, terrifying dynamics for what was known as the world amateur, mostly protected by the Olympic umbrella.

Two prodigious decades

If this Olympic cycle does not materialize, a generation of athletes will suffer a catastrophic blow, both in their sporting journey and in the economic aspect. Cases of excellent athletes who have announced the end of their careers are beginning to be known, some as incipient as they are promising. In the economic straits of the global pandemic, it is very difficult for athletes to maintain the goals set a year ago.

Covid 19 has acted on sport in the same way as in the social sphere, deepening inequality, if not discrimination. The pandemic has highlighted more than ever the distance between the visible —European football leagues, North American professional sports, tennis, golf or cycling— and the invisible, the universe without television attention that depends substantially on the economic diffuser of the Olympic Games. Without their protection, it is a world in grdangerr

The great pandemic closes two prodigious decades. Suffice it to cite the names of Usain Bolt, Shelly Fraser-Price, Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, Messi, Cristiano, LeBron and Kobe. Each one of them deserves a privileged place in the Olympus of sport, all favored by a media exposure without comparison in history. There will be no shortage of successors at their height, but the circumstances will be different, at least in the short or medium term. Everything indicates that the crisis, especially projected in this Olympic edition, will benefit more than ever the sport adhering to the pure and simple business. The rest will have to survive as best they can.

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