By Sombwa Knox Musunsa
The Corona Virus, otherwise known as COVID-19, continues to wreak havoc across the globe since December, 2019 when it first broke out in Wuhan, China. The pandemic has had significant impact on the globe and life as we know it, affecting millions of people. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there were 750 890 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 36 405 deaths resulting from the pandemic up until 31st March, 2020.
The COVIC-19 has had a significant impact on nearly all sectors of society including public health and the economy as a whole. Physical activity and sport have not been spared. In an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus and prevent new cases occurring, many countries took steps to suspend or cancel sport events and related activities in line with advice from WHO aimed at avoiding mass gatherings of people. This has been cemented by calls for people to stay at home, practice social or physical distancing and engage in regular washing or sanitizing of hands to avoid or reduce infections. Notable among the sport events that has been affected by the pandemic is the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games from July/ August, 2020 to July/ August, 2021. Globally, the suspension of sports and recreational events has resulted in huge revenue losses for hosts and sponsors. The impact, which is yet to be fully analysed, could stretch into billions of US dollars in terms of losses, while the immediate impacts will be seen through massive job losses, immediate or long term closure of businesses directly or indirectly dealing in sport and recreation, reduced funding to the sector and a reduction in implementation of sport programmes.
At the home front, Zambia has not been spared from the pandemic with 36 cases recorded as of 31st March, 2020. Although the cases currently seem insignificant, the Government of the Republic of Zambia has taken far-reaching steps to ensure reduction in cases as well as full recovery of patients. Some of the measures announced by the Republican President, His Excellency, Edgar Chagwa Lungu in his recent address to the nation include, but not limited to; i) closure of all airports except the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, ii) closure of all bars, night clubs and restaurants, and iii) hosting of public gatherings with not more than 50 people at any given time.
With the advent of the pandemic in Zambia, the nation has been affected in various areas of society and development. Physical activity and sport have also been affected with a number of events suspended or cancelled. The potential impact and loss of revenue from the combined hosting fees across the period of the pandemic, could cost the country millions of Zambian kwacha. Additionally, the country could face significant job losses and closure of businesses connected to recreation and sport such as gyms.
The Government of the Republic of Zambia has proposed key economic measures to be implemented presently and post COVID-19 pandemic to cushion the significant economic challenges that the Zambian citizens will face as a result of the pandemic. Such measures could ensure rapid recovery of the country and its economy from the dreaded pandemic. The sports sector, as indicated, will receive a significant share of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic over the short and long term. In this regard, we must pause and ask ourselves the following important questions:
i) What remedial measures does the country take to ensure sustainability of the sports sector during and after the blustery periods of the pandemic?
- How can sport be used as important factor in cushioning the impact of the pandemic?
- How can we ensure physical activity and sport are practiced in a safer environment that permits mass participation post COVID-19?
With these questions in mind, we shall continue to see empty running tracks, playing fields, stadiums, auditoriums, gyms, swimming pools, shooting ranges and no current sports news on out televisions. This will lead to loss of revenue by a number of businesses connected to sport and recreation as alluded to earlier in this text. However, one of the most affected aspect of sport development will be the reduced number of citizens that will be participating in physical activity and sport post COVID-19.
In order to ensure the sustainability of physical activity and sport, Governments and organisations will be compelled to change strategies of implementing programmes and engaging participants. Anything short of effective mechanisms of drawing citizens to participate in physical activity and sport will render most of the milestones in sport development and sport for development inoperable. It is, therefore, prudent for all sport development stakeholders to modify their organizational strategies in response to the present circumstances and employ approaches that will ensure sustainability of their programmes and existence.
The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly a threat and an impediment to the milestones the country has achieved in sport development. Granted the available resources and stakeholder collaboration in sport development, there remains hopefulness of physical activity and sport enduring and continuing to play an important role in global development beyond the pandemic.
This text provides general information. The author assumes no liability for the information given being complete or correct. Due to varying update cycles, statistics can display more up-to-date data than referenced in the text. The Author is a Sport Development Officer and a National Podium Performance Programme Coordinatore in Lusaka and can be reached at Email: sombwam79 AT yahoo DOT com