Tour de France 2020: are sporting events without spectators the future?

We're all used to images of what the world of sporting events was like until just a few months ago: spectators and fans as far as the eye can see. Isn’t it crazy how quickly things have changed in the past months for both sports fans and event organizers?

Initially planned for the 27th of June and reprogrammed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Tour de France 2020 was started a couple of days ago with the Grand Départ taking place in Nice. It will cover the 3.470 km between Nice and Paris, going through more than 500 cities and picturesque villages in southern France, with the finish date being the 20th of September. This world-famous bicycle race is known for bringing together more than 12 million people each year, not to mention the 4500 souls working to make the event happen between riders, teams, organizers, journalists, sponsors, and staff.

This year, though, things will be a bit different: the Tour de France will be held without spectators for the first time in its history. During the 1990s and a good part of the 2000s, I was myself 15 times a commentator and presenter of the Tour de France for the German broadcaster ARD, and the image of the ocean of spectators is still imprinted on my memory. It is very hard to imagine that this event is taking place and there will be no people flooding the streets to enjoy the race and cheer for their favorites. But this is the new reality for the world of sports at the moment. Does this mean we are headed for a future of sporting events without spectators?

As much as I would like to share the definitive answer to this question with you, the truth is that all of us are adjusting to completely new game rules that are being set as we go. Our best bet right now is to be more mindful of the risks involving big gatherings of fans, developing new tools and protocols to tackle this unprecedented situation, and more importantly, staying hopeful for the future.

1st anniversary of Die Finals

I hope nobody minds me getting a bit emotional here for a minute, but August is a very special month for me. The 3rd and 4th of August of 2019 saw Die Finals, a combination of ten German national championships in Olympic summer sports, come into the world after six years of hard work, a fair share of market research and lots of planning. Today Die Finals, my most ambitious project so far, is turning 1 year old.

Just like ESPN created the X Games and the EBU came up with the United European Championships, Die Finals is a child of that interesting trend that has been happening worldwide in recent years where innovative sporting event ideas are being developed by broadcasters and media companies, rather than by sports federations. In our case, I worked with the German broadcasters ARD and ZDF to help them grow the concept of this new event and take care of the media strategy. And today, as Managing Director of Die Finals GmbH, I couldn’t be happier to celebrate its first anniversary. Although, truth be said, these are uncertain times for the world of sports.

With the current pandemic, the second edition of Die Finals scheduled for June 2020 had to be postponed for 2021. However, my Finals team and the broadcasters ARD/ZDF are working relentlessly to finally see the event happen, though the dates are not known yet. In total, 17 national championships in Olympic and Non-Olympic sports are planned; among those, some newcomers like 3x3 basketball, table tennis, taekwondo and rhythmic gymnastics. Exciting, right? To be honest, I can’t wait for the second edition of this huge project to come to life. So stay tuned for upcoming news.