Even a global pandemic cannot shake this French penchant for the grand gesture. The 2020 Tour de France starts on Saturday. In the time of the coronavirus, the practical priority will be to ensure that it ends in Paris on time. The bigger question that many are asking is whether she should leave the starting line.
The Tour departs from Nice on a 3,470-kilometer route which will see a traveling circus of several thousand people cross the country for three weeks. Thousands more will gather on the roads to observe an event which is a symbol of France. On television, the eyes of the world will be watching. What could possibly go wrong.
Well, almost everything. The list of what could stop the shivering is extensive. Some health experts argue that the unfolding Tour is not so much provocative madness against a deadly enemy as it is reckless “great madness” that endangers public health.
The UCI Covid-19 health framework includes testing protocols before and during races as well as the introduction of team “bubbles”. These protocols must be reinforced for the Tour with tests also scheduled for rest days. Already, there are concerns about bubble rule violations as well as a rather imprecise official line on what happens if positive tests start to occur.
Reports suggest the team will have to withdraw if two runners or staff show symptoms or test positive for Covid-19. However, apparently the race will continue even if there is a confirmed case of the coronavirus. It’s a nice two-step that feels like a Let’s Get Started attitude and see what happens.
But what if a runner tests positive for Covid-19? Or if they are just showing symptoms of the disease? What kinds of ethical dilemmas are raised in deciding who can and cannot run in a context of who knows how many people may be exposed to the virus? More prosaically, is there a legal nightmare that awaits if someone objects to being deported?
What if most of the teams are sent off or the yellow jersey wearer is sent off on the last day? Flourish would be reduced to a farce.
Spectators at the roadside must wear masks. But it seems almost impossible to strictly enforce along a daily 200 km route. Nested and over-enthusiastic fans gathering around each other and riders as they ascend a pass is a ritual of the Tour. To presume public restraint in such circumstances presumes too much.
How the footage will impact all of this against a backdrop of spiraling virus transmission rates is difficult to assess. However, the spectacle of a giant corporate sporting event winding its way across the country, with all the potential inherent in unintentionally spreading the disease within it, has the potential to at least turn into a massive relationship blunder. public.
Nevertheless, it continues. There are a lot of economic problems. But even at the highest level of the French government, there is a sense of national spirit that demands it continues. Perhaps no other sporting event in the world has as much identity as Le Tour. This means that the highest sporting stakes are on the line for a loose gain.
If it all sounds very French, the essential dilemma is the same everywhere. The only difference is the scale.
How best to balance public health and morale has also been at the forefront of the debate. Juggling between the risk of controlling an infectious disease and the benefits of an increased workout schedule has proven to be particularly controversial. The official caution here contrasts sharply with the French government’s desire to let a sprawling event like the Tour unfold.
There is already widespread public resentment against the government here for keeping the sport behind closed doors for at least another two weeks. There are also concerns that the policy will continue for the foreseeable future. It is therefore perhaps no coincidence that it is the GAA that hits the traces of the government most vigorously.
At first glance, and admitting that the concept of everyone in this group is unraveling, for an amateur sports organization, asking health officials to explain themselves during a pandemic seems astonishing.
However, it’s not as if the GAA didn’t come together to advocate for a relaxation of restrictions, or that most other sporting bodies in private disagree with them. They just aren’t that blunt about it, maybe because they don’t have the same weight, or they’re forced to play a smaller political game because their economic hands are tied.
However, no such barrier exists for the largest sports organization in the country, expressing what it feels like the mood for much of the country. There is no doubt that many people’s lives are the poorest for not being able to attend events. Only time is likely to reveal all the collateral damage of the fight against the coronavirus by refusing such a vital social outlet.
It makes morale much more than a vague concept. There seems to be enough of them to justify the risk of the Tour de France taking place. The problem is that national morale is a largely intangible factor regardless of the country. Its benefits are impossible to calculate against the statistics and reliable data with which health authorities work. There is nothing vague about a death rate.
Perhaps in the weeks to come, the most famous cycling race of all will provide a psychological boost far beyond France. It could also provide valuable lessons on how best to juggle this delicate balance between health and morale. But if the charge here is that the authorities are erring too much on the side of caution, it’s just as valid to fear that the French are playing heavily for a concept.