The world of sports has managed to somewhat overcome the Covid-19 virus. After the initial shutdowns of all sporting events back in April 2020, no one knew when sports and leagues would resume. The only thing people were left to watch was indoor table tennis events and esports. How did the sporting world overcome the pandemic, and what challenges are we facing moving forward? Both technical and medical research is automatically pushed as controlled environments become a perfect testing ground for new tech – testing control, how the virus spreads, and its psychological effects.
Concept of Bio-secure Sports Bubbles
The NBA in the US was first out with the Bubble concept. They isolated the whole league inside Disneyland in Florida, where players stayed in hotels alongside team staff and members, had access to practice facilities and, of course, an arena where matches were played. Many other leagues replicated the same concept with success.
The I-League was the first official tournament to be held in India following the lockdowns. The tournament went underway in late November, and the Indian Super League is to follow. All of this is possible due to these bio-secure bubbles.
A bio-secure bubble is a large, quarantined area that is thoroughly sanitized and looked after to minimize the risk of Covid-19 to spread. Only players, staff and workers are allowed inside the bubble. Outsiders are generally strictly forbidden to enter. People can only leave the bubble under extraordinary circumstances and in emergency cases when it is necessary. Frequent testing is made on everyone inside the bubble daily, and anyone who tests positive is put into isolation and observation. Once the virus is out of a persons’ system, they can exit their isolation.
Drawbacks of Bio-secure Bubbles
While we know that sports events can continue inside a bubble and provide everyone at home with entertainment, little is known about the side effects these bubbles have on players and the people living inside the bubble. Currently, 13 Indian Cricket players are residing inside a bio-secure bubble in Sydney, Australia. They have been inside the bubble for six months, forced to be in a distant physical location away from home. Sports bubbles, unfortunately, do bring financial woes, such as uncertainties around tax payments and psychological side effects. Isolation inside bio-secure bubbles away from family, friends and normal life is uncharted territory, and we are yet to understand the psychological impacts. The quarantine will likely have performance-related effects and may even cause mental breakdowns in players following anxiety and stress.
Sustainability During A Pandemic
Now that we have a working concept to keep sports going despite a pandemic, it is time to look at how we can make the sports bubble sustainable. New needs are bound to arise as the dynamics and life inside bubbles are unique and new to everyone. Authorities should properly outline tax rules or clarify that exemptions are made to players who are forced to stay outside their countries due to lockdowns and sports bubbles. League organizers should research to understand better the psychological impact sports bubbles are having on players. Medical staff and researchers should closely monitor and try new testing techniques and better understand how the virus spreads. Otherwise, it could have devastating effects on the well-being of players and the world of sports. If done correctly, not only will the concept of bubbles be sustainable long-term, it can also provide valuable insights and understanding of the virus and its effects.