13 The Daily Telegraph Wednesday 22 July 2020 *** O’Sullivan: Having spectators at the Crucible is unnecessary risk Snooker sports news correspondent By Tom Morgan Ronnie O’Sullivan has said spectators attending the World Championship as part of Covid-19 guidance stress-tests will be an “unnecessary risk”. The five-time champion said “you aren’t really achieving anything” by allowing reduced numbers to attend the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield from Friday week. Barry Hearn, the World Snooker Tour chairman, previously welcomed the decision to choose the championship to evaluate the Government’s “stage five” guidance on the return of fans to elite sports events. Organisers announced that spectators would be asked to follow a strict “code of conduct” to ensure they are not spreading Covid-19. However, O’Sullivan told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Having people there but not enough people doesn’t look good. Either pack it out and say we don’t actually care or just go, ‘We aren’t having anyone’.” Hearn previously said players would be “thrilled” at the return of fans, but O’Sullivan says he has “no problem” with sporting events being behind closed doors until 2021. “Just sport being on television is enough at the moment,” he added. “I just think it’s an unnecessary risk. I just don’t think you want to be putting people’s lives at risk. You look at the NHS and you think this is like a war at the moment and it’s those people who have been flat out, and you watch what they go through, and anything to take the stress off them is paramount.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday that cricket would be the first sport to hold a test event, followed by snooker and racing, with plans for a “wider reopening” for fans into stadiums from Oct 1. However, Premier League clubs are confident games could be played with supporters present in September – and with around 50 per cent capacity – especially if they are allowed to implement a digital health passport system. County cricket friendlies next Sunday and Monday will be the first events in the Government’s pilot scheme, with Surrey’s two-day match against Middlesex at the Kia Oval one of the games that will permit fans. Crowds are likely to be limited to as few as 1,000. The snooker beginning on July 31 will have provision for 250 to 350 “golden ticket” holders and the final day of Glorious Goodwood on Aug 1 will be open to the racecourse’s 5,000 members plus guests. I was trying in the book to relay the darkness that brought me such melancholy and pain. But by writing it, I hope it’s able to offer some company to the children reading it, showing them it doesn’t have to stay that way.” At some level, it is difficult to understand how Legler ever managed to combine her peak conditioning as a swimmer with her inveterate drinking and substance abuse. In part, she attributes it to her off-the-charts metabolism: “I still don’t understand what a hangover is.” But in a French swim team who prided themselves in the Nineties as hellraisers, she insists that her behaviour was less the exception than the norm. “Sport is not this super squeaky-clean thing that the public discourse has made it out to be,” she says. “At least in my time, there was no one who was the epitome of mental health and well-being. You can’t train at that standard and become so able to sustain physical pain, and not be savage in some way.” Come the Atlanta Games, she had shaved her head and started to score drugs. In view of the vigour with which the Olympics are policed, it appears extraordinary that she was able to do so without regard for the danger or the consequences. “One of the things that saved my life was my ability not to care,” Legler says. “It was such a relief when that happened. As a young child, I was so sensitive, so easily overwhelmed and flooded just by what it meant to be alive. So, when I drank for the first time, it was like having a spiritual experience. So much so, that I could only imagine tolerating life while drinking.” She takes a long pause, over 20 seconds. “I look back on this, and I am amazed I made it out.” Make it out she did, though, engineering a remarkable reinvention from Olympian and drug addict to an award-winning author who has spent almost half her life clean. “In many ways,” she says, with a knowing grin, “my darkest past is my superpower.” “Godspeed” by Casey Legler (Scribe, £14.99) has been voted International Autobiography of the Year in the Telegraph Sports Book Awards
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