COVID-19 News: Royal Ascot, Tokyo 2020 and more

Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot has unveiled plans for an innovative ‘Royal Ascot At Home’ programme as the famous racing meeting takes place behind closed doors for the first time in its history this week.

While the racecourse may be closed to spectators due to the UK’s continuing lockdown rules, organisers have developed a series of features designed to engage audiences at home from the start of the 36-race event tomorrow (Tuesday, June 16).

Racing fans will be able to follow a live schedule of coverage and entertainment including the opening of the gates each morning and singing around the Bandstand after the last race.

They can also download images of the course’s famous Union Jack bunting as well as download a Royal Ascot flower wall filter and dedicated Royal Ascot At Home GIFs to use on Instagram. A series of quizzes and competitions offer the opportunity to win prizes, including a Porsche driving experience at Silverstone.

Celebrity chefs Raymond Blanc, Ollie Dabbous, Brett Graham, Skye Gyngell, Eric Lanlard, Simon Rogan and James Tanner will whet appetites ahead of their return to the racecourse in 2021. The racecourse will for the first time share its secret recipes, to enable enthusiasts at home to create their own VIP tea.

Some scheduled activities can now be viewed on a dedicated ‘Royal Ascot At Home’ activity hub on the event’s website, while others will be revealed over the course of the week, with all money raised donated to charities.

Juliet Slot, chief commercial officer at Ascot Racecourse, said: “We’re excited to launch ‘Royal Ascot At Home’ for 2020. During these unprecedented times when we aren’t able to welcome our usual 300,000 guests to the Royal Meeting, we want as many people as possible to enjoy the magic of the Royal Meeting from home. It will be a unique experience, like no other, for us all.

“We hope everyone will embrace the many wonderful activities and interactive challenges we have lined up on the Ascot website, in the lead up to and during the event, as well as tuning into all the live racing action on television.”

Meanwhile, Ascot is to become the first racecourse in the UK to publish live weather data via an innovative new app developed by Cambridgeshire-based technology company, TurfTrax.

Information including rainfall, wind speed and direction, soil moisture, and daily evapotranspiration (moisture loss) will be available to view in real-time alongside GoingStick readings, going maps, rails positions and irrigation in the build-up to and during Royal Ascot.

Chris Stickels, clerk of the course at Ascot, said: “With racing taking place behind closed doors there will be fewer people this year with access to the track and, therefore, the distribution of up to the minute information takes on even greater significance.”

Tokyo 2020

Tokyo 2020 organisers have so far failed to secure agreements with a fifth of venues needed to stage next year’s postponed Olympic Games, it has been revealed. Organising committee chief executive Toshiro Muto told reporters that there is so far no agreement over the use of the athletes village, media centre and an indoor facility scheduled to host taekwondo, fencing and wrestling.

Muto indicated that the National Stadium, to be used for the opening and closing ceremonies and track-and-field, is one of the venues that can likely be used.

“We’ve been asking if we can use the same venues for the same means. Adjustments remain, but we’ve reached a general understanding with about 80 percent,” Muto told reporters.

Agreements are not yet in place for the Tokyo Big Sight, a convention centre that was supposed to be used as the international and main press centre (IPC/MPC), and Makuhari Messe, a complex that was supposed to stage taekwondo, fencing and wrestling.

“Regarding Tokyo Big Sight, to be used as the IPC and MPC, it is also Tokyo-owned but many reservations have already been made by other users for next year,” he explained.

“Therefore, we are working together with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) in coordinating the schedule.”

Last week, organisers outlined plans to “simplify and optimise” the preparation and delivery of the event, while keeping a focus on sport and athletes, to reduce the cost impact of a potential postponement.

PDC darts

Top-level darts is to return behind closed doors in the UK at the start of July.

The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) will run its PDC Summer Series, featuring all 128 of its players, from July 8-12 at Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes.

The PDC said that in the event that quarantine restrictions make it impractical for non-UK players to travel to the events, the PDC will announce a revised schedule of non-ranked events for the same dates.

PDC chairman Barry Hearn, whose players took part in a televised Home Tour during lockdown, said he was delighted to enter the second stage of the return to darts, with playing in front of fans considered the third and final phase.

In a statement the PDC said: “The PDC understands that players will have further questions regarding these events and we can assure them that as soon as details are able to be confirmed we will release the information appropriately.”

Image: Ascot Racecourse