Roughly one year ago today, the entire world was put on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdown orders were put in place and sporting competitions were entirely shut down, both nationally and internationally. Besides the major soccer, basketball, baseball, and other leagues being affected, two major sporting events were also canceled. The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and the 2020 UEFA European Championship were canceled last summer, however, now with the improved COVID rates across most of the globe, these two monumental sporting events are set to occur.
Sports fans across the world are eagerly awaiting this summer of sports and it is finally ready to begin in just under one month. The 2021 UEFA European Championship will take place from June 11 to July 11, hosted by 11 different cities throughout Europe including Amsterdam, Budapest, Copenhagen, Rome, St. Petersburg, Seville, Spain, London, Munich, Glasgow, Bucharest, and Baku Azerbaijan. Currently, the favorites of this tournament are considered to be Belgium, France, Germany, and Portugal. France’s roster remains mostly unchanged from their 2018 World Cup Winning side, however, their path to the finals is referred to as “the group of death.” Based on a random draw, France, Germany, and Portugal were all placed into the same group and while all three of them could hypothetically advance, it is much more probable that only two of them will. Kevin De Bruyne’s Belgium team, on the other hand, has a much easier path and could be looking for vengeance after their defeat to France in the 2018 World Cup Semi-Finals. Soccer fans around the world are eager to see which international powerhouse goes down first.
Besides the tournament favorites, teams such as Netherlands and England appear to have the best shot at winning. Both teams have strong veteran presences as well as new, young talent. These two teams are serious contenders and look to advance further this summer than their past few abysmal campaigns.
Showcasing some of the world’s greatest talents, this tournament is the second most prestigious in soccer, second only to the World Cup. Players such as Kylian Mbappe, Kevin De Bruyne, Christiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane, and Virgil Van Dijk are eager to prove their dominance. This level of competition is everything soccer fans have been waiting for since the pandemic began.
Following the UEFA European Championship, the world’s eyes will turn to the Olympic Games. The Olympic Organizing committee believes that the 2021 Olympics will become a symbol of resilience and unity after a tumultuous, pandemic-filled year that devastated so many people across the world. They are hopeful that the Olympics can represent the end of this overly difficult 12 months.
“Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic Flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel,” the Olympic organizing committee said.”
With detailed safety procedures finally laid in place for the Olympic games, it seems as if few obstacles could get in the way now. With the games running from July 23rd to August 8th, fans have already begun getting excited about the fascinating storylines soon to be played out in Tokyo. Many Americans are saddened to bid farewell to Simone Biles, arguably the greatest gymnast of all time. Biles earned four gold medals in Rio and is competing in six events in her second and final Olympic Games, once again leading the dominant U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team. Biles will look to conclude her career in historic fashion, without an all-around defeat for eight years.
Another storyline Americans are monitoring is how the U.S. Swimmers will fare without recently retired legend and one of the greatest Olympians of all time, Michael Phelps. Professional analysts believe, however, that the U.S. swimming domination will continue in 2021 led by star swimmer Caeleb Dressel. Dressel will be expected to go for 7 gold medals in Tokyo, just one shy of Phelp’s historic Beijing campaign. Additionally, Simone Manuel, the first black female swimmer to win a title for the U.S., has a chance for six gold medals this summer. Between Dressel and Manuel, as well as Katie Ledecky, Ryan Lochte, Ryan Murphy, Regan Smith and Lilly King, America should add some silverware to their esteemed swimming trophy display.
Additionally, in track and field, America looks to present the world with a potential Usain Bolt successor. Christian Coleman, was the world’s fastest sprinter in 2017, 2018, 2019 and entered 2020 as the Olympic favorite. Now, pending a missed drug test, Coleman will look to bring back the gold for the United States. Furthermore, Noah Lyles who was just 0.31 seconds short of Bolt’s world record, looks to earn three gold medals as well. Finally, Allyson Felix bids for her fifth Olympic team and first since becoming a mother. With nine medals, Felix stands just one shy of Carl Lewis’ record for a U.S. track and field athlete. History is set to be made at these upcoming Olympic games and it looks as if the United States will have yet another successful campaign, especially amongst the female athletes. The Women’s National Team looks to rebound after four years ago’s quarterfinals exit vs Brazil last Olympics and Sue Bird is competing to become the first basketball player, of any gender, to win 5 gold medals.
All the eyes in the world will be on these two international competitions this summer. Sports fans worldwide are overwhelmingly excited after an exhaustingly difficult COVID year.