Herald on Sunday

Azzurri help Italians and world beat Covid blues


Postponed by a year, the biggest sporting event since the coronaviru­s brought the world to a halt kicked off yesterday at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

The opening match of the 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. Italy delighted the maskwearin­g home fans by beating Turkey 3-0, getting all the goals in the second half.

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

The tournament was postponed last March as countries scrambled 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 sanitiser will help prevent a resurgence of virus infections, which have dropped sharply in Europe in recent months.

The world of sports is watching. If everything goes smoothly, Euro 2020 can give a confidence boost for other major sporting events, such as the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to open on July 23 — also a year late.

The virus already has had an impact on the tournament, which for the first time is not being hosted by one or two nations but is spread out 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 Tuesday (NZ time). The Spanish squad was getting vaccinated yesterday.

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