Year in Review 2020: Top 10 sports events we missed because of COVID-19

Chia Han Keong
·Editor
·7-min read
The Olympic Symbol is reinstalled in December 2020 after it was taken down for maintenance ahead of the postponed Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
The Olympic Symbol is reinstalled in December 2020 after it was taken down for maintenance ahead of the postponed Tokyo Olympics in 2021. (PHOTO: AP/Eugene Hoshiko)

SINGAPORE — Sports was a huge casualty of COVID-19, with many top international competitions being cancelled this past year due to the pandemic.

The health risks that come with mass participation and large spectator numbers wrecked the hopes of many organisers to hold what had become regular fixtures on the sporting calendar.

Here are the top 10 sports events fans missed in 2020 because of COVID-19:

1. Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics 2020

Far and away the biggest sports casualty of the year, the Tokyo Olympics tried to resist cancellation or postponement of its original dates from 24 July to 9 August – until countries threatened to boycott the Games as COVID-19 raged across the world in March.

Faced with mounting pressure, the International Olympic Committee finally postponed the quadrennial extravaganza – as well as its Paralympics counterpart – until 2021.

While there was relief that the Summer Games were not cancelled, hosts Tokyo are having massive logistical headaches planning for an event that will see athletes, officials and spectators descending onto the metropolis for more than two weeks. How will they cope with so much human traffic amid the COVID-19 pandemic. At press time, they are still working out a foolproof plan.

2. F1 Singapore Grand Prix

Since 2008, Singapore has hosted the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix night race around the shimmering Marina Bay Circuit every September, as thousands of fans revelled in both the high-octane racing and top-notch entertainment acts before and after the races.

When COVID-19 broke out, the viability of hosting a street race with large swathes of spectators around the circuit became extremely unlikely. So it was not a major surprise that Singapore GP organisers decided in June to pull the plug on this year’s race, even though the F1 season resumed in other circuits around the world.

Still, cancelling the race was a further blow to Singapore’s badly-hit tourism industry, as the annual race draws in huge travel receipts from motor-racing fans around the world. One hopes that the crown jewel of Singapore’s sports calendar could be revived in 2021, if only for the celebratory atmosphere among the revellers around the circuit deep into the night of every Singapore GP race.

A man wearing a mask as a protective measure, walks past a logo of UEFA Euro 2020 at a countdown clock showing 450 days to the tournament.
A man wearing a mask as a protective measure, walks past a logo of UEFA Euro 2020 at a countdown clock showing 450 days to the tournament. (PHOTO: Sergei Mikhailichenko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

3. European Championship 2020

It was supposed to be a continental-wide celebration of football. Euro 2020 was to be held across different European cities, in a bold change to the traditional format of having one or two nations hosting the quadrennial football tournament.

Instead, COVID-19 made it completely unfeasible to do so, with the pandemic raging across Europe in the early parts of the year. Again, it was not much a surprise that Europe’s football governing body Uefa was forced to postpone Euro 2020 to next year.

Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal national side will have to wait another year before they can defend their European title.

4. Wimbledon

Of the four annual tennis Grand Slam tournaments, it was sad that the most prestigious one – Wimbledon – was the only one which was forced to be cancelled, due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in Britain. It was the tournament’s first cancellation since World War II in 1945.

Perhaps the only players who could be smiling after to the cancellation were the defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic and the women’s champion Simona Halep. They get to keep their respective trophies for another year.

6. British Open 2020

Another major and prestigious sports event wrecked by the serious COVID-19 situation in Britain, the British Open – the oldest ongoing golf competition in the world – was also cancelled for the first time since World War II. It would have been the 149th edition of the tournament.

Irish golfer Shane Lowry will keep his title for another year, although this year’s in-form golfers such as Dustin Johnson and Bryce DeChambeau will rue the lost opportunity to contest this much revered golf Major.

6. Thomas and Uber Cups 2020

Denmark was supposed to be first-time hosts of this prestigious team badminton event in May. China were the defending Thomas Cup men’s champions, while Japan’s women’s team were the reigning Uber Cup winners in the quadrennial tournament.

Originally scheduled in May, the two Cups were first postponed to August and then to October, when when the Danish government extended its ban on large gatherings. Yet, as COVID-19 wrecked preparations among for the tournament, team after team dropped out – Australia, Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea and Indonesia all decided to withdraw.

Faced with a decimated field, organisers decided to postpone the Cups yet again to 2021. As of now the exact dates of the competition have not been decided.

7. World Team Table Tennis Championships

To Singapore table tennis fans, the World Table Tennis Championships will always be the event in which the Singapore women’s paddlers – Feng Tianwei, Li Jiawei, Wang Yuegu, Sun Beibei and Yu Mengyu – caused one of the biggest shocks of the sport when they defeated mighty China in the 2010 edition in Moscow.

Unfortunately, neither Singapore nor China could showcase their best talents in Busan this year, as the tournament was postponed to next year, with no details yet on the exact dates.

The Singapore Slingers' Jerran Young in action against the CSL Knights Indonesia at the OCBC Arena in Game Two of the 2019 Asean Basketball League Finals.
The Singapore Slingers' Jerran Young in action against the CSL Knights Indonesia at the OCBC Arena in Game Two of the 2019 Asean Basketball League Finals. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian/Yahoo News Singapore)

8. Asean Basketball League 2019/20 season

Since its inauguration in 2009, the Asean Basketball League (ABL) has steadily grown its fan base, and has become a well-supported league featuring regional talents and foreign imports from the United States.

Not surprisingly, with all the regional travelling needed to complete the fixtures, the 2020/21 league season was deemed unable to be finished amid the pandemic.Amid concerns that the league may fold, organisers insisted that they will begin the 11th ABL season next year.

9. HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens 2020

The three-day tournament at the National Stadium was always a crowd-pleaser, with a party atmosphere among the spectators, amid the vibrant sevens rugby competition on the field.

So it was a big disappointment among the rugby fans in Singapore when the event was cancelled in July after originally being postponed from April to October. Hopefully the 2021 edition would not suffer the same fate, especially since Singapore had been successfully organising the event since regaining hosting rights in 2016.

Tottenham Hotspur players congratulate Harry Kane (right) after the striker scored the winning goal in their International Champions Cup match against Juventus at the National Stadium
Tottenham Hotspur players congratulate Harry Kane (right) after the striker scored the winning goal in their International Champions Cup match against Juventus at the National Stadium (PHOTO: Zainal Yahya/Yahoo News Singapore)

10. International Champions Cup Singapore

The two occasions in which Singapore’s National Stadium was sold out for football matches in 2019 both came in this quaint pre-season friendly tournament. Yet, it was not entirely surprising, as the two matches featured four hugely-popular, well-supported European teams: Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Juventus and Inter Milan.

The 2019 International Champions Cup was also memorable for Harry Kane’s unbelievable last-minute goal from the halfway line for Spurs against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus. Sadly, COVID-19 put paid to this year’s event, with rumours that reigning English Premier League champions Liverpool were one of the teams supposed to come to Singapore’s shores.

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