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'I long for a return of sport but fear for the worst'

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Washed Up column, by Sarah Juggins, Tuesday, May 26, 2020

In my day job I am a sports writer. It is a constant source of amazement to me that my working life is spent watching and writing about an activity that brings so much joy, excitement and drama to people’s lives.

Like so many things in this Covid-impacted world, it is only when something is no longer available do we really miss and appreciate it. And that has been the way with sporting activities.

Pre-Covid-19, we could switch on the television and watch some form of competitive sport at any time of the night or day.

The running track at Lynnsport
The running track at Lynnsport

Football, rugby, cricket, cycling, boxing, tennis – you name it and a top level sport would be instantly available.

Right up until lockdown, there was Premiership football and horse-racing at Cheltenham attracting huge crowds and millions of viewers.

As participants, sport offers such benefits. On a physical level, regular sporting activity improves cardiovascular health, it tones muscles and it helps with weight control.

Psychologically it reduces stress, improves self-confidence and releases endorphins which helps counter depression.

Socially, it is a chance to meet up with friends and share experiences, humour and excitement. There is little wonder that people are missing it.

The Government’s readiness to recognise the importance of sport and physical activity is admirable.

Throughout the Covid crisis we have been encouraged to exercise, even if there are time and locality restrictions. As soon as we moved from Stay at Home to Stay Alert, a return to some sports – golf, tennis and basketball – were allowed, along with permission to exercise as much as we like every day.

Local and national leagues are looking at ways to get back into sporting action as quickly as possible. (For obvious reasons, Norwich City are probably the only football club in the country who wants the current season to be scrapped completely.)

Already sports fans are excitedly talking about 2021 and how it could be a cracker of a sporting year – all the events that have been scrapped this year will spring back with renewed vigour next year, culminating in the glorious spectacle of the Olympics and the Paralympics in Tokyo.

Greece: 19 March 2020: The Olympic flame Handover Ceremony took place at Athens’iconic Panathenaic Stadium. Summer Olympic Games Credit: IOC
Greece: 19 March 2020: The Olympic flame Handover Ceremony took place at Athens’iconic Panathenaic Stadium. Summer Olympic Games Credit: IOC

But, this assumes they go ahead, which is not definite, of course.

For despite the excitement and anticipation, lingering at the back of my mind is the thought that this virus is not proving a willing accomplice in any return to normality.

The threat of spikes, surges in infection and unpredictability casts a large, foreboding shadow over every aspect of society and that includes the prospect of a glorious return to widespread sporting action.

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