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Doubt still surrounding major sporting events

Robin Horsfield was the dominant rider in the MTB Series. The mountain bike National Championships have been rescheduled for July 4 at Ferry Reach (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Uncertainty still surrounds the big sporting events over the next few months after the Government imposed new restrictions on the weekend to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus, which has now claimed the lives of 24 residents.

The 2021 cricket season had hoped to start the first weekend in May, but latest restrictions, which already caused teams to cease training, means that the season is not likely to start next month.

The Bermuda Day Half-Marathon and Sinclair Packwood Memorial Cycle Race are exactly a month away with doubts mounting over whether they will go ahead. Registration for the half-marathon, which is limited to 450 individuals and 25 relay teams, is set for Saturday after being delayed by a month.

Unsure that it will be able to stage the cycle race, the Bermuda Bicycle Association does not even have the event listed in its recent newsletter. New dates are set for June 20 and July 4 for the Time Trial Championships at Clearwater Beach and the Mountain Bike National Championships at Ferry Reach.

“We are trying to be somewhat realistic, the events we have on our calendar for now are all individual time-trials until May,“ said Peter Dunne, the BBA president.

“The first one is May 9, but I don’t know what numbers are going to be related to that. You’ll have more of a chance [of catching the virus] standing next to someone in the grocery store than at a time-trial.

“I think logical heads will prevail so that we’ll be able to have those types of events through the month of May.”

The Marathon Derby race committee is following the developments closely and could make a decision soon on whether to go ahead with the race. Cancelling it for a second straight year is not a decision they want to have to make.

Neither is it something the BBA wants to do with the cycling, but Dunne is being realistic. “Unless they are going to say by late May you can have gatherings of more than 50 people or 100 people, I don’t know how you can have the Bermuda Day Half-Marathon or our bike race without there being express permission for large numbers,” he said.

“It’s unrealistic to think we can have a race that looks like a typical May 24 and a Sinclair Packwood race. In early November, before we were on the shutdown, we were allowed 50 people. If we were back there, we could look at it.”

Cycling, not a contact sport, was able to hold its mountain bike series recently at various parks around the island, but the national championships were called off after a spike in cases recently.

“There is nothing out there that I’ve seen — and I’m not privy to all the data — that says that outdoor sporting activity is the source of the spread. Indoor, maskless, close quarters … that is where it’s happening.

“I’m a pro-mask person, but look at the CDC statement today that says that if you’ve been vaccinated you pretty much don’t need to be wearing a mask outside. Do you know how many cycling events happen outside? All of them!

“Even runners, one right on the heels of the other, that’s the length of your stride apart, minimum. Now rugby, and the scrum, not so much!”

Dunne added: “There was a distinction made in January that contact sports were different from non-contact sports. Nothing’s changed in that; cycling is still not a contact sport.

“There is a need to make generalisation about certain activities in order to get a handle on the pandemic. That’s where I feel most sports are at the moment.”

Controlling the size of the crowds on Bermuda Day — thousands lining up along the route — would be the biggest safety concern of the health department when it comes to easing restrictions.

“On Bermuda Day, the biggest draw event is the parade by far,” Dunne said.

Cricket is certain to have another delay to its season, which could ultimately impact two of its biggest events, the three rounds of Eastern Counties and Cup Match, all in the space of six weeks from mid-July to the end of August.

Cal Blankendal, the executive director of the Bermuda Cricket Board, accepts they are guided by restrictions and that a June start to the season looks more realistic, especially under the present Return to Play guidelines. David Burt, the Premier, said on the weekend that restrictions could likely be in place for another two months.

“It just means that our season is going to be delayed, similar to last year,” Blakendal said. “We were looking at May 1 but the closer we got to that date we knew it was not going to be feasible.

“Now hopefully it will be sometime in mid-June, so we’ll make sure we are ready for that date and then we’ll have to see where the country is and what the leadership tells us.

“Definitely, we would like to get restrictions eased, but until the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of National Security say that it is OK for households to mix, we are guided by the Government.”

He added: “Cricket is going to be important, not only from the sporting side but the psyche of the country as well, as we need something to come out to on the weekend.

“It’s unusual circumstances and the most important thing, as we see around the world, is that people are safe. Frustrations are there, but there is really no one to blame.”

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Published April 28, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated April 29, 2021 at 8:03 am)

Doubt still surrounding major sporting events

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