One of the first professional athletic sports to allow spectators to attend as states gradually lift the restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus is known for its wild and dangerous action – riding bulls.
Professional Bull Riders has announced a new competition that will culminate in South Dakota from July 10-12 with live crowds. As people want to get back into daily activity, it's all part of the effort of professional sports organizations around the world to give bored fans at least a taste of what it once was.
Organizers of the bull riding event said they would provide facial covers to fans, space seats 4-6 feet apart, and control the flow of people in and out of the arena to accommodate social distancing.
The German soccer Bundesliga returned this weekend with live soccer, albeit with no supporters in the stands. The games were played with sanitized balls, celebrated with fist bumps instead of hugs, and animated by masked substitute players instead of thousands of bellowing fans.
American professional sports organizations, eager to hear the roar of fans accompanying a photo finish or 20-foot putt, are discovering how they can return to live events without exposing viewers to the virus.
The PGA tour plans to bring golf tournaments back in June, but organizers have said they won't allow crowds for at least a month. NASCAR fans, cut off from the race track, gathered outside Darlington Raceway in South Carolina over the weekend just to hear the roar of the engines.
As one of the first events scheduled to allow viewers, the bull competition will be a test and a step towards a return to normality.
The sound of the fans will be subdued. The bull competition will be held at the 12,000-seat Sanford Denny Premier Center in Sioux Falls, but tickets will be offered for only 35% of the seats.
That will not fit President Donald Trump's normal criteria. He said Sunday that his idea of a return to normalcy would be to have thousands of unmasked fans "practically on top of each other,quot; at golf tournaments.
But sporting event organizers are watching local governors and officials to comply with their slow lifting of restrictions on daily life.
Bull Riders professionals said they worked with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and local officials to organize the event. Noem has avoided closing deals or issuing large orders to stay home during the pandemic, and welcomed the announcement, saying on Twitter that it shows the state "is working to return to normal."
Last month, the governor lobbied a couple of dirt tracks to cancel plans to allow hundreds of spectators to watch the races.
Ian Fury, a spokesman for the governor, said welcoming the bullfighting event was greatly reduced at the time. The governor expects the spread of infections to be down by that time, he said.
Bull riders are "really going above and beyond,quot; in organizing the event to mitigate the possibility of infection, Fury said.
The Professional Bull Riders televised event will pit teams of riders on Fridays and Saturdays for nearly a month in Las Vegas, but with no spectators. For the final weekend, they will go to South Dakota for an event that organizers hope will draw several thousand people.
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