Colombia is hoping to open stadiums at 30% capacity for this summer’s Copa América, which the country will co-host alongside Argentina.
The 2021 edition of the national team football tournament is due to run from June 11 to July 10, having been postponed by 12 months due to the pandemic.
Speaking to Caracol Radio earlier this week, Colombian Sports Minister Ernesto Lucena said it would be unfeasible to host the event without any fans, adding that organisers are currently working on a biosafety protocol to open stadiums at around 30% capacity. “A Copa América without an audience would not make sense,” he said.
Lucena’s optimism comes amid falling COVID-19 infection rates and the continued roll-out of vaccinations. He added that Colombia would be “fully capable” of hosting the tournament on its own if required but stressed that Argentina has not given any indication that it will back out.
“We believe that we will be able to open at 30% capacity and I will communicate with (CONMEBOL) President Domínguez to see what he is thinking with his commission of experts,” the Sports Minister said.
“But obviously a Copa América with zero audience would be completely unfeasible. I don’t see that scenario at the moment.”
If Colombia is able to open stadiums at 30% capacity, it would mean that around 15,000 fans can attend games at Bogota’s Estadio Metropolitano (pictured).
This year will mark the first time that the Copa América has been hosted by two countries.
In other news, NBA basketball team Oklahoma City Thunder has said it will not welcome fans back at all this season.
The team informed season ticket holders of the news this week, with the decision having been made to ensure the health and safety of fans and the local community.
The Thunder becomes the first NBA team to announce that it will not be hosting any fans for the remainder of the season. The team’s final home game at Chesapeake Energy Arena is scheduled to take place on May 16.
As reported by ESPN, the team’s letter read: “As we continue to battle this pandemic, we feel that it is too soon and there are too many variables that still must be overcome in order to bring several thousand people into our arena. Our long-term personal relationships with our fans are something that we value deeply, and as we look toward our future with you, it is critical for us to ensure that when you do come back, it is in a safer environment than the one we are currently in.
“Another factor that weighed heavily on us was the reality of the limited game experience you would face under the strict conditions that would be required. The current protocols that are necessary would not allow us to live up to our standards of a high-level and engaging entertainment experience.”
The Thunder started the season without fans in attendance, having previously detailed plans to have a “limited number of fans and guests”. The decision to begin the season without fans was taken amid “ongoing and concerning” trends in local COVID-19 cases.
The Detroit Pistons will become the latest NBA team to welcome back fans this month after Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer eased restrictions for sports venues in the state.
Governor Whitmer has said that indoor stadiums and arenas with capacity of over 10,000 will be permitted to welcome up to 750 fans. Outdoor entertainment and recreational facilities can host up to 1,000 spectators.
The ruling will enable the Pistons to welcome 750 fans back to Little Caesars Arena for the March 17 game against the Toronto Raptors.
The arena’s other tenant, the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, will welcome the same number of fans for the March 9 game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Red Wings had previously been allowed 500 fans at the arena.
Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers will also be free to welcome up to 1,000 fans to Comerica Park when the new season gets underway next month.
Image: Mkstillo/CC BY-SA 3.0/Edited for size