The world came to a halt at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, the biggest sporting event since the coronavirus
The opening match of football’s European Championship will be played in the capital of Italy, the first country outside Asia hit by the pandemic and the first in the world to impose a nationwide lockdown.
The tournament represents a major step towards recovery after one of the darkest chapters in the continent’s history since World War II. The pandemic has killed more than 1 million Europeans, including about 127,000 Italians.
Italy coach Roberto Mancini said, “After all that has happened, now that the situation is improving, I think the time has come to start giving the fans something to be satisfied with, who in November suffered from COVID-19.” had tested positive for -19 but was asymptomatic.
The tournament was postponed last March after countries scrambled to contain the virus outbreak and major sporting events around the world were canceled or put on hold.
Many worry that it is still not safe to bring thousands of fans together in stadiums across Europe, but organizers expect crowd limits, arrival times for fans, social distancing rules and plenty of hand sanitizer The measures including will help prevent the resurgence of virus infection. , which has fallen sharply in Europe in recent months.
In Rome, fans entering stadiums are required to bring documents showing they have been vaccinated against the virus, tested negative in the 48 hours before the match, or already had the disease.
The sports world is watching. If all goes smoothly, Euro 2020 could provide a boost of confidence for other major sporting events, such as the Tokyo Olympics, which are due to open on 23 July – also a year late. If it doesn’t, it would be a serious blow that could have implications beyond football.
The virus has already had an impact on the tournament, which is not being hosted by one or two countries for the first time, but has spread across the continent with matches in 11 cities.
Spain captain Sergio Busquets tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the team’s first match against Sweden in Seville on Monday. Another player from Spain tested positive, as did two players from Sweden. The Spanish squad was being vaccinated on Friday.
Russia winger Andrey Mostovoy on Friday became the first player to be dropped from the national team after testing positive.
Italy’s opening match against Turkey will bring together the largest crowd in the country since it went into complete lockdown 15 months ago, even though the stadium will only fill to 25% of its capacity.
In Rome and elsewhere in Italy, most virus restrictions have been lifted. The midnight curfew and the requirement to wear a mask outside one’s home are the most convincing ways the pandemic still affects citizens’ daily lives.
AP Sports writer Andrew Dampf contributed to this report.
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