SEOUL, May 3 (Korea Bizwire) — The South Korean baseball league, for which the regular season is set to open on Tuesday, has become of the talk of town, drawing attention from sports officials and fans around the world, including Spain’s La Liga as well as Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and the U.S. sports media giant ESPN.
Although the games will be held without spectators on site, South Korea’s opening of the 2020 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season is sprouting hope at a time when the professional sports industry around the world has been left reeling in the aftermath of the pandemic.
While South Korea’s COVID-19 prevention measures are emerging as a global standard, the KBO guidelines, which adapt the national measures for the sports industry, offer a potential path forward for other sports organizations around the world.
The KBO will hold games in empty stadiums, and anyone on site must wear a mask. In addition, the KBO will establish its own inspection system to very personnel displacements on site.
All of the measures have been created in preparation for a rapid response in case of an unexpected situation.
What is more interesting about the professional baseball season opening is that it is not only an indication of South Korea’s commitment to overcoming COVID-19, but also put the country’s unique sports culture in the spotlight.
While highly coordinated singing among spectators echoing from the packed stands is part of South Korea’s unique cheering culture, offering a variety of attractions and events as an ICT powerhouse, including augmented reality events using large electronic boards, is gaining traction around the world.
The ceremonial first pitch of the KBO League season has also become renowned in sports circles.
Former rhythmic gymnast Shin Soo-ji’s 360-degree spin pitch was broadcast worldwide, with her pitch mentioned on global news networks such as CNN.
There have been number of interesting and unique opening game ceremonies, including an archery gold medalist’s first pitch and an “air-rotating first pitch” from Taemi, who won first place at the World Poomsae Championships.
Meanwhile, a KBO official said on April 29, “The Spanish La Liga office has asked us to share how we’re dealing with the coronavirus outbreak,” adding, “La Liga will develop guidelines for COVID-19 based on the KBO manual when league play resumes.”
La Liga, widely cited as the top professional football league in the world, was suspended as of April 12 due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
La Liga, which will soon review whether to resume league play, immediately asked for assistance after the KBO league declared its season would open in May with South Korea firmly entrenched as a leader in COVID-19 mitigation.
“The World Baseball Softball Confederation recently asked the KBO to send a COVID-19 manual for reference in writing,” an official said.
Earlier, the KBO also delivered its 40-page COVID-19 manual to the NPB.
Meanwhile, Spain is one of the European countries that has suffered the most from the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 245,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and the number of deaths surpassing 25,000 as of May 3.
Japan’s NPB recently asked the KBO to share its COVID-19 response manual. Japan is the only Asian country where the baseball season has yet to begin.
Japan, where COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire, has postponed the opening of the NPB season several times, and officials are now thinking of opening in June.
Three players from the top league, including star pitcher Shintaro Fujinami of the Hanshin Tigers, were confirmed to have the virus and have been treated.
They have not been able to conduct group training and have only been doing individual training. There are some clubs that have stopped training all together.
In mid-March, the KBO formed a COVID-19 Task Force led by Jeon Byung-yul, a former director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The KBO released the second edition of the COVID-19 response manual, with some updates, on April 17 and distributed it to each club.
In order to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, the KBO organized the manual and specifically laid out the rules that athletes, team staffers, and officials must follow.
It also set out details on how to respond to each possible situation and circumstances. Officials can refer to the manual if athletes, team employees, or other personnel are confirmed to have contracted the virus.
Recent pre-season matches have been held in accordance with the new guidelines.
Athletes must wear masks at all times, and they are banned form shaking hands with bare hands in all areas except for on the field and in the dugout. Athletes cannot even spit during games.
Umpires also wear masks and sanitary gloves during the match and are not allowed to enter in direct contact with players.
Instead of high-fives, teams have created other ceremonies to avoid contact, while players in the dugout all wear masks, making their quarantine measures a routine.
D. M. Park (firstname.lastname@example.org)