COVID-19 event news: Diamond League, The Derby and more

Diamond League

Organisers of athletics’ Diamond League have unveiled a shortened, provisional calendar that will run from August to October, excluding the final event that was due to take place in Zurich, Switzerland.

The calendar has been revealed with the Diamond League having been forced into a series of event suspension announcements in recent months due to the impact of COVID-19. Several events have now been rescheduled, and others cancelled entirely, as organisers continue to adapt the season in the face of the crisis.

The provisional calendar will see a number of Diamond League meetings proceed as one-off, exhibition events, while others will be staged as adapted meetings. There will be no events in July and the first half of August, with the season extended into October.

The 2020 Diamond League will not have its traditional format of a structured series of events leading to a final, with organisers pointing to the current discrepancies in training and travel opportunities making it impossible to ensure a level playing field and a fair qualification system during 2020. Athletes will therefore not earn Diamond League points this season, and there will not be a single, 24-discipline final in Zurich as originally planned.

The new provisional dates for Diamond League events in 2020 are as follows:

August: Monaco (14th), Gateshead (16th) and Stockholm (23rd)

September: Lausanne (2nd), Brussels (4th), Paris (6th TBC), (Rome/Naples 17th), Shanghai (19th)

October: Eugene (4th), Doha (9th), a second meeting in China (17th, venue TBA)

Rabat’s event on May 31, London’s Anniversary Games on July 4 and Zurich’s final event on September 9-11 have been cancelled. Organisers said that, due to the extraordinary situation in 2020 and the restructuring of the entire season, Zurich has been granted the right to stage the finals in 2021 and 2022. This was made possible after Eugene gave consent for the 2022 final – previously awarded to the US city – to be shifted by one year to 2023.

Although not part of the official calendar, the Diamond League said the Bislett Alliance continues to work on an alternative athletics competition as an exhibition event under Norwegian COVID-19 regulations. This is intended to be staged on June 11, the original date of this year’s Oslo Diamond League meeting.

Plans for the ‘Impossible Games’, a behind-closed-doors event, were first revealed last month. The one-hour event will be covered by Norwegian public-service broadcaster NRK and will feature a world-record attempt by Norwegian 400m hurdles world champion Karsten Warholm. The Games will also feature a pole-vault battle between world record holder Mondo Duplantis and Diamond League champion Renaud Lavillenie.

No athletes will fly into Oslo to compete in the Games and athletes travelling from Sweden to Bislett Stadium will use electric cars, in line with the Bislett Games’ efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Along with the Diamond League, World Athletics has also detailed a wider calendar for the sport from August to October which includes six Continental Tour Gold events and the World Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland on October 17.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said: “As we have worked through the challenges posed by the pandemic and the disruption it has caused to our sport, as well as the wider community, our first priority was the health and safety of our athletes. And the next priority has been to find a way to get our professional athletes back into international competition this year as their incomes rely on this.

“I’m delighted that it now looks like we will be able to offer them a solid international season between August and October where they can earn prize money and assess their training progress in preparation for next year’s Olympic Games, although we know this will not be easy for everyone.

“Inevitably international travel restrictions will affect the ability of some athletes to attend some meetings, but we hope that there will be a wide enough range of meetings available for most elite athletes to access some competition before the end of the year.”

The Derby

The Derby, one of the annual showpiece events of British horse racing, is poised to remain at Epsom Downs Racecourse after local authorities gave their backing to a behind closed doors plan.

The Derby was one of the events to fall victim last month as Ascot Racecourse conceded that this year’s Royal Ascot meeting will need to be staged behind closed doors, if possible, while the first four Classics of the season were postponed due to COVID-19.

However, the Epsom and Walton Downs Conservators have now voted in favour of a plan that would see the Derby and Oaks staged as part of a seven-race card held behind closed doors on a Saturday in July or August.

The UK government on Monday announced that professional sporting events could be allowed to go ahead in England behind closed doors from June 1, with the UK racing industry remaining in lockdown mode amid the global pandemic.

The Epsom Downs site, which includes public footpaths and bridleways, is now set to be fenced off to the public for a 24-hour period, allowing the Derby and Oaks to take place. Jockey Club group chief executive Delia Bushell said: “We are working hard on a practical and deliverable plan to stage the 2020 Investec Derby and Investec Oaks at their traditional home, without a crowd and once racing is approved to resume by government.

“I’d like to express my sincere thanks to the Epsom and Walton Downs Conservators for their backing. These two Classics play a vital role in the thoroughbred racing and breeding industries, so it’s of great importance for them to be able to go ahead during this difficult period.

“Our teams now look forward to working with the British Horseracing Authority and local authorities to bring our plan to life.”

Primeira Liga

The Primeira Liga, the top division of club football in Portugal, will resume its 2019-20 season on June 4.

The league has been suspended since March due to COVID-19, but its organising body, Liga Portugal, has announced the resumption date, stating June 4 will grant extra time for stadiums to be inspected and players to be tested after May 30 was initially targeted.

The Liga said: “Over the past few days, the various entities have carried out successive alignment meetings so that the recovery can take place safely and with all the protection measures that mitigate the risks of returning to activity, following a phase of inspections to determine the stadiums that effectively fulfil the requirements defined in the technical opinion.

“It is anticipated that this joint work by DGS (Directorate-General of Health) and Liga Portugal will serve as a model for the resumption of other economic activities, with the aim that this professional competition provides an example of the good practices that this pandemic imposes on us.”

FC Porto had led the league by one point from champions Benfica when the season was suspended. Ten rounds of games remain.

First League

Football clubs in the Czech Republic have voted to resume the 2019-20 seasons for the top two divisions later this month.

The leagues had already agreed on a resumption plan, but it needed approval from the clubs as the season is set to run into July, beyond when some sponsorship deals and player contracts were due to expire.

The First League is now set to restart with a match between FK Teplice and Slovan Liberec on May 23, with the second tier resuming in the following week. Thirteen First League clubs voted in favour of the plan, with only MFK Karvina, SFC Opava and Fastav Zlin voting against.

Games will be held behind closed doors, with six rounds of regular season matches and the playoffs remaining to be played. The season is set to conclude by July 15.

Image: Wanda Diamond League