Tournament in London
Welcome to the “Corona Bomb”: The Darts World Cup is turning into a lucky lottery
The Darts World Cup is sinking into chaos: While more and more players are infected with the corona virus, the fans in the stands continue to celebrate their party unhindered. The association is overwhelmed and tries to ignore the problem.
Somewhere in the Hilton Islington not far from central London, the mood is at its lowest point. Michael van Gerwen sits in one of these rooms and is not allowed to leave it: The three-time darts world champion tested positive for the corona virus on Tuesday and was excluded from the current world championship. After Vincent van der Voort and Raymond van Barneveld, Van Gerwen is already the third corona case at the Darts World Cup – mind you, since Christmas. On Wednesday lunchtime, Dave Chisnall was another favorite, who was eliminated after a positive test. While a number of games are being canceled in the Premier League, the World Cup will continue undeterred. The show must go on.
The fact that three of the four who tested positive are Dutch may be a coincidence that corona cases occur at the Darts World Cup, rather not. Because while everywhere in Europe there are again strict rules for spectators and indoor sports in Germany mostly have to get along without fans, the Darts World Cup takes place in the home of the lax Corona rules, i.e. Great Britain. The Omikron variant has been setting new records for new infections for two weeks now, on Tuesday there were 117,093 new cases, almost three times as many as in Germany. There will be no restrictions before the New Year, said Great Britain Minister of Health Sajid Javid recently – if there will be any at all.
Sold out games
Since the beginning of the Darts World Cup in mid-December there has been repeated criticism of the rules that apply in the British darts temple “Ally Pally”. 3000 spectators are allowed to come to the Alexandra Palace every day, which is therefore sold out. A 3G regulation and a mask requirement apply, but the latter only relates to when visitors move far away from their seat – and this is also adhered to rather manageably. Videos and pictures of the event show the athletes surrounded by fans who tend to follow the Corona rules sporadically. The fact that people don’t take things too seriously at the entrance, among other things, had already been reported by “Welt”. Accordingly, the stewards usually do not even look at the test or vaccination certificate and hardly check the identity on the basis of an identification document.
It is the closeness to the professionals that, in addition to the alcoholic and motley party at “Ally Pally”, defines the sport of darts. While the players duel on the board, the fans sit and stand just a few meters behind the stage. When the players march in traditionally, they even have to rummage through a line of fans. There is seldom so much closeness to sport. The World Cup participants also thoroughly enjoy the spectacle and repeatedly heat up the audience with challenging gestures.
Van Gerwen the most prominent corona case at the Darts World Cup
But that also has bitter consequences: Two weeks after the start of the World Cup, van Gerwen and Chisnall, two of the top favorites, were unintentionally eliminated. Positive test, Aus der Maus, the World Cup is over. Van Gerwen leaves no doubt that this regulation is completely in order – by the way, vaccinated like all other World Cup participants. Probably because of the organizers of the World Cup, who from his point of view could have done more to avoid the current situation. On the one hand, there are the players who have to report their self-test to the association and can therefore easily trick. “Of course I could have swapped the test, but I still want to be able to look at myself in the mirror. People die of Corona, you don’t do that,” emphasized the 32-year-old in an interview with the Dutch newspaper “AD”. Only after a positive self-test do the athletes have to report to the organizer, and a PCR test provides certainty.
However, the main focus of van Gerwen is on the PDC, the host of the Darts World Cup. According to the regulations, you don’t have to check the entrance every day, but it would have made sense to protect the World Cup, said the former darts world champion. “The PDC will say that they always obeyed the official rules, but more could have been done. The controls weren’t strong enough. Now it’s just a big corona bomb,” explained van Gerwen.
The association keeps the corona issue small
A look at the monosyllabic communication of the positive tests shows that the PDC wants to keep the Corona issue as small as possible: Player A has Corona, Player B thus progresses. Not a word about further or additional protective measures. No well-being wishes for the players. Instead, the other games are celebrated extra loud: a lot is “historic” or “epic” or “fantastic”. Corona, on the other hand, should remain a marginal aspect in the midst of weak crisis communication. It gets more and more bizarre.
PDC boss Barry Hearn wrote on December 18 with reference to Omikron via Twitter: “And are we seriously considering shutting down the economy and causing endless hardship for millions of people?” The 73-year-old states that it is time to “live with the virus”. Meanwhile, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan declared the disaster almost two weeks ago and justified it as follows: “The rise in the number of omicron cases in our capital is very worrying.”
The Darts World Cup ends on January 3rd with the grand finale in the “Ally Pally”. Until then, 3000 fans will make their way to north London every day to have a big party dressed up, drunk and without complying with the rules – and to produce the colorful pictures that the PDC wants to send out into the world. However, it is uncertain whether there will still be players on the stage.