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COVID-19 event news: Euro 2021, Monaco GP and Belmont Stakes

Euro 2021

Wembley Stadium and Johan Cruijff ArenA are reportedly the two host venues that have yet to provide the necessary legal guarantees to stage the postponed UEFA Euro 2020 tournament next year.

In March, UEFA decided to delay Euro 2020, which had due to be staged this summer in 12 different European countries, over health concerns in an effort to avoid placing further pressure on national public services during COVID-19.

The tournament was due to be held across 12 stadia in 12 different nations, and had been scheduled to kick off in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on June 12. Wembley was to serve as the centrepiece of Euro 2020, with the final, semi-finals, Round of 16 and group stage games taking place in London.

Munich (Allianz Arena), Baku (Olympic Stadium), Saint Petersburg (Gazprom Arena), Copenhagen (Parken Stadium), Dublin (Aviva Stadium), Glasgow (Hampden Park), Bucharest (Arena Naționala), Amsterdam (Johan Cruijff ArenA), Bilbao (San Mamés) and Budapest (Puskás Aréna) are also due to stage games.

On Monday, UEFA announced that the next meeting of its Executive Committee, originally scheduled for May 27, had been postponed to June 17, due to the existence of “some remaining open points” regarding a “small number” of proposed venues for the rearranged Euros next year. The meeting had been due to confirm the venues for next year’s tournament.

At the weekend, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin admitted that there were still some issues with locking down venues for 2021, stating that Euro 2021 could be held in 10, nine or eight stadia. UK newspaper The Times has now reported that Wembley and Johan Cruijff ArenA are the two remaining venues with question marks against them.

While there is said to be no threat to Wembley’s status as a host venue, the delays are reportedly due to the need to secure legal guarantees from local authorities whose focus is currently on issues concerning COVID-19.

Concerts that had been planned for Wembley in June/July 2021 also need to be cancelled, with an agreement reached with the English Football League (EFL) over the dates for its play-off finals. The Times added that Johan Cruijff ArenA also needs to complete arrangements over cancelling concerts and other events scheduled for next year.

Speaking in the Dutch press at the weekend, Gijs de Jong, director of Euro 2020 in Amsterdam, expressed his confidence that Johan Cruijff ArenA will retain its position as a host venue. De Jong said: “Since the decision to move Euro 2020 to 2021, we have been in constructive discussions with UEFA and all partners.

“This has been done with a positive attitude and the talks are on schedule. The municipality of Amsterdam has already promised that the four games can be played in Amsterdam in 2021. Johan Cruijff ArenA has also confirmed that the dates are in the diary. We need some time to formalise this and put it on paper. But as we said, we assume that it will succeed.”

Monaco Grand Prix

The Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM), organising body of the Monaco Grand Prix, has said next year’s edition of the Formula 1 showpiece will be held from May 20-23 as part of a three-event run across the space of a month.

In March, the most famous race on the F1 calendar was cancelled outright for 2020 after organisers conceded that the “situation is no longer tenable” to stage the event amid COVID-19. The Monaco GP, held on the streets of the principality, was first held in 1929 and has been staged every year since 1955. Its 2020 edition had been scheduled for May 21-24 and the 2021 dates represent the first event pencilled in for next year’s F1 calendar.

ACM said the plans for the Monaco GP, Formula E’s Monaco E-Prix on May 8 and the 12th Grand Prix de Monaco Historique on April 23-25 have been signed off by the Monaco Government following the conclusion of an internal feasibility study.

However, ACM conceded that staging the three events so closely together will represent a “huge logistical challenge” for itself, all major players and authorities of the Principality of Monaco, as well as for the 3,000 volunteers – among them 650 stewards and track marshals – whose role will be crucial for the success of the events.

“To organise three races in the space of one month will be a premiere for us all at ACM,” said Christian Tornatore, general commissioner of Automobile Club de Monaco. The logistical side promises to be complex, but not impossible to manage.

“Because of the new constraints, we shall need to start setting up the track earlier than usual, at the end of February, instead of March 15. We will then integrate the technical aspects, on and around the track, required by every category that will be involved. In order to achieve this, we will count on the experience and flexibility of all persons involved, in order to achieve our objectives.”

Formula 1 has seen its 2020 calendar decimated by postponements and cancellations due to the global pandemic and is currently in the midst of confirming a revised schedule.

Belmont Stakes

The Belmont Stakes, part of the Triple Crown of US horse racing, has been handed a new date of June 20 meaning it will take place before the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes for the first time in its history.

The Belmont was originally scheduled for June 6 at Belmont Park, only for racing in New York state to be suspended in late March due to COVID-19. Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday gave the green light for action to resume behind closed doors.

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) yesterday (Tuesday) announced that live racing would return on June 3 at Belmont Park, with the Belmont Stakes to be held as part of a 25-day spring-summer schedule.

“The resumption of live racing at Belmont Park on June 3, with all appropriate health and safety protocols in place, will support the hundreds of small businesses, family-owned farms and thousands of hourly workers who form the backbone of thoroughbred racing in New York,” said NYRA president and CEO Dave O’Rourke.

“The return of live sports, especially New York institutions like the Belmont Stakes, is a welcome sign of progress that will bring some sense of normalcy back to our everyday lives.”

The Kentucky Derby has already been moved from May 2 to September 5 and the Preakness Stakes from May 16 to October 3.