What will 2021 look like?
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - November 23, 2020 - 12:00am

The announcements of vaccines that will be available for clinical testing in the Philippines and global mass distribution some time next year are spurring the planning of more and more sports activities. Event organizers are cautiously optimistic that we will inch closer to the old normal after the New Year rolls in. But what could 2021 look like from a sports perspective?

The peak of next year will likely be the Tokyo Olympics. The organizing committee is under a lot of pressure to balance health protocols with achieving a semblance of normalcy, not an easy feat. After refunding pre-sold tickets, they already have a firm schedule for the Games. For certain, athletes will arrive early for testing, and audiences will be limited. Athletes may be segregated to prevent the spread of COVID, and media conferences will likely be done virtually or in small numbers. The Games will mean more to humanity, as it will show that the world can come together, no matter what. And whatever they learn will benefit the organizers of the Vietnam SEA Games only a few months after. The Philippine Sports Commission has already set a training bubble for national athletes, and the Filipino athletes qualified for Tokyo are currently training in the US, Japan and Malaysia.

The NBA and PBA will tide over sports fans through the holidays. After some initial resistance from players, the NBA will resume for Christmas. Moving the season to next year would have meant a billion-dollar loss and less income for the players. In the Philippines, collegiate sports will resume in the second quarter of 2021. Whether or not physical classes resume, athletes can be trained in isolation. Knowing Filipino youth, social media will become an even more important conduit for local sports audiences.

There will also likely be an explosion of e-sports and sports events that require no contact or simply rely on judging. It’s surprising that e-sports have not been more pervasive, but then again, having all the competitors in one place guarantees the same internet speed. The absence of a crowd makes it easier, as important events can be played in smaller venues. Some combat sports with forms events like wushu, karate and even arnis can have major events judged remotely. Contact sports are more reliant on multiple camera angles to determine fouls and violations.

2021 will also be a great year for Philippine sports broadcasting. With the current leader TV5, the awakening giant GMA Network, and the resurgent veteran People’s Television each redefining their identities, there will be healthy, stimulating competition. This coincides perfectly with the addition of more professional sports under the Games and Amusements Board. More sports will get needed exposure. Filipino fans will have their fill of what excites and inspires them. God knows that the country needs it, more than ever.

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