The Wimbledon tennis championships have been underway since June 28 after a no-show in the past year due to Covid-19. Since the return of the popular sporting event, more than one tennis great has thanked fans inside the arena for being in attendance.
The men's record eight-time winner, Roger Federer, got a round of applause more than once for mentioning the crowd and the atmosphere. In a similar spirit, home favourite Andy Murray gave away the shirt that he wore during the match to two fans on the prestigious Centre Court for encouraging him with "Come on, Andy!", chants that pushed him to his five-set second-round win. Other players too spoke of how grateful they were for a live crowd and crucial cheering. Notably, at the beginning of the tournament, fans stood up to applaud healthcare workers and the scientists who developed the Covid-19 vaccines.
There is no doubt that audiences bring alive an event. The state of mind for a sportsperson can hinge on the encouragement of fans, frequently determining the outcome of tense matches. In the UK, an atmosphere such as the one at Wimbledon was made possible because of the country's dogged inoculation drive. Fans in the stadium have
had to show proof of vaccination. Ticket holders have had to show a negative test taken within the previous 48 hours. It is the only reason the crowds are unmasked, as we see them on our TV screens – and fans do need to remain masked when not in their seats.
Shortly after Wimbledon ends on July 11, the much-awaited Tokyo Olympics begin. With three weeks to go for the games, the organising committee on Friday was still considering precautions that would disappoint sporting enthusiasts: a ban on all domestic fans – internationally, in any case, fans are not allowed due to the pandemic.
In keeping with the season of big global sporting events, the UAE will host the T20 Cricket World Cup this October. This is heartening for sports watchers and a testament to the faith in the country's vaccination successes that the game will be played in the country once again. The UAE already has a template of success to emulate from the past year, despite the virus, when it hosted the world's biggest club-level cricket league. The Indian Premier League was held successfully with players in bio bubbles. The rigour of testing and social distancing have been in place since. And the systems to ensure the safety of citizens and residents are constantly being updated, whether it is the use of Al Hosn app or new screening methods.
Despite the fluid and ever-changing nature of challenges, as now in the case of the Delta variant, the UAE's approach to keeping its communities safe manifests in measures such as the new contact tracing system. These steps make it possible for a semblance of normality to be restored to not just to major sporting tournaments but other big-league events such as the Expo 2020 Dubai, which in October is on track to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world.
In the time since last year's IPL matches took place, the UAE's vaccination levels have soared. The figures speak for themselves: Abu Dhabi's Ministry of Health and Prevention said that 65,939 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine were administered in the past day, which pushes the figure to over 15,428,281 doses administered by July 2. The rate of vaccine distribution was 155.99 doses for every 100 people. Considering the UAE's determined approach to vaccination, such progress is unsurprising. And given that the country has the faith and trust of other nations and sports authorities, it is possibly just a matter of time before audiences are able to see more events in person, the way they are best experienced.