After the famine will hopefully come the feast. The 2020 sporting calendar around the world was decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic but as we slowly emerge blinking into the light, the line-up for 2021 could well be the best ever.
Not only do we have the return of annual favourites across the various sports but we have a multitude of rearranged events from 2020 to fit in as well.
Sportsmail looks forward to what could be, if the pandemic eases sufficiently, an exceptional year in sport.
The biggest sporting casualty of the Covid crisis were the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which were postponed back in March for the first time in peacetime.
The Olympics will now be staged between July 23 and August 8, 2021, with the Paralympics between August 24 and September 5.
The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games fell victim to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 but have been rescheduled for the summer of 2021, albeit at great expense
With the roll-out of the Covid vaccine, the organisers are confident spectators will be able to attend the events in and around Tokyo, with IOC president Thomas Bach describing the Olympic flame as ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’.
But as the organisers grapple with the logistical nightmare of keeping 11,000 athletes plus many more officials, journalists and volunteers from around the globe safe from Covid, the Japanese public has a different view.
A recent survey showed a majority are against holding the Olympics, with 32 per cent backing cancellation and 31 per cent in favour of postponement amid Covid fears.
It has been reported that the delay and ensuring Covid security will add a further £2.1billion onto the budget for the Games but the message is very much that the show will go on next year.
The new National Stadium that will host the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Games
The pan-continental European Championship finals also had to be shelved as football ground to a halt back in the summer but has been rearranged for between June 11 and July 11 next year.
It remains to be seen if the intended format of staging matches in 12 different cities from Bilbao to Baku remains feasible but the semi-finals and final are still set for Wembley Stadium in London.
The delay to the play-offs meant we only discovered the full line-up of 24 nations for the finals last month, when Scotland, Slovakia, Hungary and North Macedonia booked their places.
England will have high hopes for the rearranged Euro 2020, especially with a Wembley final
Portugal are the reigning European champions following their triumph in France in 2016
England, Scotland and Wales will provide home nations intrigue – indeed the auld enemy clash in the tournament’s most mouthwatering group-stage match on June 18 – while all the traditional European football powerhouses are present and correct.
International football was forced to take something of a back seat to keep the club game on track this year but it will certainly have Europe in thrall next summer.
The scramble to rearrange golf’s majors resulted in the Ryder Cup, originally set for September, being bumped back a year to September 24-26, 2021.
It will see Europe, led by Padraig Harrington, defend the title won in Paris in 2018 against the USA, captained by Steve Stricker, at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
Thomas Bjorn celebrates Team Europe’s victory in the last Ryder Cup, held in France in 2018
Scenic Whistling Straits in Wisconsin will provide the venue for the rescheduled 2021 event
With Europe having won four of the last five and nine of the last 12 Ryder Cups, the Americans will certainly need to make home advantage pay.
The 2021 Solheim Cup – the equivalent showpiece event in the women’s game – is also set for Inverness Club in Ohio between August 31 and September 6 next year.
LIONS TOUR TO SOUTH AFRICA
After the absolute thriller of their tour to New Zealand back in 2017, the British and Irish Lions’ trip to South Africa next year will be hotly anticipated.
It will, however, be a more condensed tour than usual, a decision made even before the disruption of Covid.
The three Tests – two in Johannesburg and one in Cape Town – against the world champions will take place on July 24, July 31 and August 7 after just five tour games beforehand for Warren Gatland’s squad.
Owen Farrell celebrates nailing a kick during the British and Irish Lions’ tied series in New Zealand in 2017. They will head to South Africa next summer
WORLD T20 CRICKET WORLD CUP
This year’s tournament, due to be held in Australia in October and November, was postponed but it will now be played in India 12 months later than scheduled.
Australia will now get their chance to hold the same tournament in 2022 in what is becoming something of a T20 takeover of the cricket calendar.
England, with their extensive arsenal of big-hitting batsmen, will rank among the favourites to add the T20 World Cup to the 50-over version but the tournament moving to India does change things.
The hosts, as well as resurgent Australia, will fancy their chances of succeeding West Indies as the world’s best while playing in home, spin-friendly conditions.
After 50-over World Cup glory, England skipper Eoin Morgan will want to double up in the T20 version to be held in India in October and November
JOSHUA VS FURY
It’s the one boxing event we all want to see in 2021. Anthony Joshua against Tyson Fury in an all-British showdown to decide the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
The meeting of WBA, IBF and WBO champ Joshua and WBC belt holder Fury could happen in May with a potential rematch at the back end of the year – there is already a financial agreement in place. But, as ever with boxing, there are still plenty of negotiating to be done and political hurdles to overcome.
But fight fans everywhere will want to see this hotly-anticipated contest happen and hopefully in front of a packed stadium should Covid allow.
Anthony Joshua (left) versus Tyson Fury (right) promises to be a heavyweight clash for the ages with the two British fighters on a collision course in 2021
The quintessential event of the British summer was cancelled in 2020 for the first time since World War II.
The Australian Open managed to escape the virus, the US Open went ahead behind closed doors and very limited crowds watched a rearranged French Open in late September, but Wimbledon didn’t make it.
Fortunately, the tournament safeguarded themselves by ticking the ‘pandemic’ box on their insurance policy and so are set for a whopping £174million pay-out to cushion the blow.
However, the organisers insist Wimbledon 2021 will take place regardless, either without crowds or, all being well, with them. It will be between June 28 and July 11.
Having been cancelled in 2020, Wimbledon will return next year either with or without crowds
July’s 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s was cancelled amid the Covid lockdown but the same Kent course will now host the event between July 11-18 next year.
As part of a reshuffle of venues, the 150th Open will now be played on the Old Course at St Andrews in 2022.
As it transpired, The Open was the only one of golf’s four majors not played in 2020 with the US Open, US PGA Championship and the Masters all completed – and Bryson DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa and Dustin Johnson were mighty pleased about that.
Shane Lowry got to hang on to the Claret Jug for an extra year after The Open was cancelled
The 2020-21 season started a little later than usual because of the knock-on effect of the three-month suspension of the previous campaign amid lockdown.
But it’s now in full swing both in the domestic leagues and the European club competitions.
It’s been something of a miracle that just three Premier League fixtures – Aston Villa vs Newcastle, Everton vs Manchester City and Fulham vs Tottenham – has been postponed for Covid reasons so far this season, proving players and staff can be kept safe.
While all sport has now unfortunately been moved back behind closed doors in the UK amid tightened restrictions, it is hoped that with the spread of the vaccine, fans will gradually return in 2021.
As for key dates, the Premier League season comes to a conclusion on May 23 with the FA Cup final on May 15. The Champions League final in Istanbul will be on May 29 and the Europa League final is scheduled for May 26.
Both Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus (left) and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (right) will have designs on lifting the Champions League trophy in Istanbul next May
The Covid lockdown in Europe split this year’s Six Nations Championship apart, with four games carried over until October to get the competition finished.
In the end, England won the title but failed to take the Grand Slam after losing their opening game to France.
The good news now is that you only have to wait until February 6 for the next instalment, with the competition running until March 20.
England take on Wales in last year’s Six Nations, which had to be completed in October
WORLD TEST CHAMPIONSHIP AND THE ASHES
Covid wreaked havoc with the English cricket season, though some of the Test matches plus some white ball cricket was successfully completed in the bio-secure environments of Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl.
It is hoped we will return to some normality in 2021. England first head to Sri Lanka and then India, before a summer that sees both those two, plus Pakistan, come to these shores for a blend of ODIs, T20s and Tests.
We can also look forward to the final of the first ever World Test Championship, set for mid-June at Lord’s. Australia, India and New Zealand are leading the race to qualify for that showpiece.
England will hope Ben Stokes can repeat his heroics of 2019 in the Test summer next year
And a packed year of cricket concludes with England heading Down Under for the Ashes against Australia. Joe Root and his men will be determined to wrest the urn back after Australia retained it last year.
On the domestic front, aside from the County Championship, we will have the belated introduction of The Hundred (whether you like it or not…)
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk