National Post (National Edition)

COVID-19 leaves sports world full of voids

- STEVE KEATING Reuters

The Los Angeles Lakers celebrated an NBA title inside a quarantine­d bubble. They handed out a Green Jacket at the Masters and hoisted a Stanley Cup.

But there will forever remain blank spaces on the wall of the All-England Club where the winners of the 2020 Wimbledon tennis Championsh­ips would have been honoured, and no name engraved on the Claret Jug that goes to the British

Open golf champion.

Around the world, in the midst of a raging COVID-19 pandemic, games continued to be played, some in bubbles and most without spectators. A Masters in November instead of April and a Kentucky Derby in September, rather than May, threw sporting biorhythms into confusion. But for more than a few big and small leagues, teams and events, the coronaviru­s meant there was no 2020, leaving holes that will never be filled.

Hundreds of events disappeare­d and along with them, in some cases, the chance of a lifetime for an athlete to get his or her hands on a trophy or medal.

In April, COVID-19 did something two world wars, a terror attack and all manner of global calamities could not — stop the Boston Marathon for the first time in its 124-year history.

There was no less disappoint­ment in the scrapping of two iconic British summer sporting traditions.

With the exception of the two world wars, Wimbledon had been contested since 1877 and the Open Championsh­ip since 1860, with one other blank year in 1871 when it could not decide how the event would be run.

Roger Federer, an eighttime champion on the All England Club lawns, had one word to describe his feelings on Twitter; “Devastated.”

Wimbledon, the British Open and the Boston Marathon will all return, but some leagues and teams have simply disappeare­d from the sporting scene.

To great fanfare the XFL relaunched a second time in 2020, but teams played only about half their 10 games before operations were suspended due to the pandemic.

The Toronto Wolfpack, due to play in England's Super League, created a stir in the rugby world when they signed the sport's biggest name, New Zealand All Black great Sonny Bill Williams, to a two-year deal for a record US$9 million.

In the end, Williams never set foot in Toronto and the club stopped play in July, saying they could not find the finances to complete the season and they will end the year without a home or league.

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