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Euro 2020 marks return of mega-scale events

Associated Press | Updated on: Friday, June 11, 2021, 11:57 PM IST

Wales' forward Gareth Bale (C) during their training session at Dalga Arena stadium in Baku on the eve of their UEFA EURO 2020 football match against Switzerland. | AFP
Wales' forward Gareth Bale (C) during their training session at Dalga Arena stadium in Baku on the eve of their UEFA EURO 2020 football match against Switzerland. | AFP
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Rome: Postponed by a year, the biggest sporting event since the coronavirus brought the world to a halt kicked off at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, a milestone both for European and world sports, on Friday.

The opening match of soccer's European Championship was played in the capital of Italy, the first country outside Asia to get struck by the pandemic and the first in the world to implement a nationwide lockdown.

The tournament represents a major step forward on the path toward recovery after one of the darkest chapters in the continent's history since World War II. More than 1 million Europeans have died in the pandemic, including almost 127,000 Italians.

"After everything that's happened, now the situation is improving, I think the time has come to start providing fans with something to be satisfied about," said Italy coach Roberto Mancini, who tested positive for COVID-19 in November but was asymptomatic.

The tournament was postponed last March when countries were scrambling to contain virus outbreaks and major sporting events around the world were cancelled or put on hold.

Many worry that it's still not safe to bring tens of thousands of fans together in stadiums across Europe, but organisers hope measures including crowd limitations, staggered arrival times for fans, social distancing rules and lots of hand sanitizer will help prevent a resurgence of virus infections, which have dropped sharply in Europe in recent months.

In Rome, fans entering the stadium are required to bring documentation showing they have been vaccinated against the virus, tested negative in the 48 hours before the match or already had the disease.

The world of sports is watching. If everything goes smoothly, Euro 2020 can give a confidence boost for other major sporting events, like the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to open on July 23 - also a year late. If it doesn't, it would be a serious setback that could have ramifications beyond soccer.

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Published on: Friday, June 11, 2021, 11:57 PM IST