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Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease pandemic effect on the sports industry - Statistics & Facts

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has swept across the globe in the last year has not only had a significant impact on public health, society, and the economy as a whole, it has also wreaked havoc to the sporting calendar. In a bid to stem the spread of the virus, many professional and amateur leagues across all continents and sports took the unprecedented step to postpone or suspend their seasons on the advice of the CDC to avoid gatherings of large amounts of people.

Following the news that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, the NBA was the first professional sports league in the United States to suspend its season indefinitely. At the time the season was suspended on March 11, 2020, there were still 259 games left in the 2019/20 NBA regular season. Combined league gate revenues lost as a result of these cancellations were estimated at between 350 and 450 million U.S. dollars. The NBA was ultimately able to resume its season within a bio-secure "bubble" at Walt Disney World's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. 22 teams still within a shot of the playoffs played seeded games, which was followed by the conventional post-season tournament. The NBA Finals between Miami Heat and the LA Lakers ended with the latter emerging victorious on October 11, 2020, almost a year after the regular season began. The 2020-21 NBA season started less than two months later in December 2020, with the regular season reduced to 72 games for each team. While fans were let back into the arenas for this season, only seven teams played all of their home games in front of fans since the start of the season.

The day after the NBA was originally suspended in March 2020, the NCAA, the organization responsible for college sports, followed the professional league's lead by canceling all of its remaining winter and spring championships, which included the hugely popular ‘March Madness’ men’s basketball tournament. Television and marketing rights for this tournament alone add up to 867.5 million U.S. dollars, all of which was thrown into chaos with the news of the tournament’s first cancelation since its inaugural season in 1939. As well as the financial hit that each college due to compete in the event suffered, the city of Atlanta, which was to host the Final Four stage of March Madness, was hit particularly hard. The city was estimated to have lost more than 100 million U.S. dollars in areas such as ticket sales, advertising, and sponsorship due to the postponement of this event. March Madness returned in 2021 and was hosted across locations in the state of Indiana.

Moving onto the racetrack, the Formula One calendar was also affected by the pandemic. On March 12, 2020, Formula One canceled the Australian Grand Prix, and the upcoming races in Bahrain and Vietnam were postponed the following day. The potential loss of revenue from the combined hosting fees across the whole season, which are paid by the individual host nations, were forecast to amount to over 602 million U.S. dollars. As a result of the uncertainty surrounding the F1 season, it came as no surprise that the Formula One Group lost 45 percent of its market value on the stock market, amounting to a loss of an estimated five billion U.S. dollars. The season eventually started on July 5 at the Austrian Grand Prix, with a total of 17 races run in 2020. Of the Grand Prix scheduled on the original calendar, only four races kept their original dates. In the 2021 season, three Grand Prix were canceled or postponed, with 23 races scheduled until December 2021.

One landmark sporting event which was also hit by the crisis was the Summer Olympics. The 2020 edition of the games was due to be held in Tokyo at the end of July but, in March 2020, became the first ever Olympics to be postponed to a later date, July-August 2021. This was a decision that the IOC clearly did not take lightly, especially given it affected 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,4400 Paralympic athletes who had been training for years for this occasion. As with any Olympic Games, the financial burden on the host nation is also enormous. The new Olympic Stadium in Tokyo cost 277 million U.S. dollars alone and Japan has committed a total of 13.4 billion U.S. dollars towards organizing the event. Although the IOC has insurance in the event of a cancelation, the rescheduling of the tournament to 2021 has certainly been a logistical and economic headache for all parties involved. Ahead of the rescheduled 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced a series of eSports events, with the potential future inclusion of video games in the Olympics in mind. The so-called Olympic Virtual Series would feature video game-based competitions across five different sports - auto racing, baseball, cycling, rowing and sailing.


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