The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a great place. It’s big enough for a golf course, the most famous oval racetrack in the world, and on a good day for the Indy 500, more than 400,000 spectators.
Not nearly as many visitors will be present for the 2020 event, but there will likely be far more than anyone who has lived through the past three months.
IMS plans to open the stands for August 23 with a 50 percent capacity for the Indianapolis 500. This was made clear in a letter to the ticket holder that was published on Friday. The race, which has been running on Memorial Day weekend for more than a century, will be postponed for almost three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
MORE: What you need to know about 2020 Indy 500
While spectator sport in Europe has been played without spectators since the German Bundesliga returned in May and both the PGA Tour and NASCAR started without a personal audience, the Speedway apparently plans to have around 125,000 spectators in the stands for this year’s 500 .
This plan is ambitious to say the least.
No, that’s just nice.
It is absurd.
The state of Indiana contains only two cities with more than 125,000 inhabitants, and none of these cities is limited to only 560 hectares. NASCAR’s design to allow fans to run an All Star race on July 15th at Bristol Speedway in Tennessee spans 30,000 on a 162,000-seat course. When Ohio State Sports Director Gene Smith spoke in May, he may have discussed only 22,000 spectators at Ohio Stadium, which seats 104,944.
There has been a lot of histrionics in the sports media about the feasibility of returning to competitive sports in the United States, while coronavirus incidents continue to increase in different parts of the country. Some suggested ending the PGA tour as some caddies tested positive this week. And radio host Daryl Ruiter tweeted this when it was announced that an event was as insignificant as Pro Football’s Hall of Fame game – the Hall of Fame game! – was canceled.
Opens Twitter. See’s Hall of Fame game canceled, anchorage postponed.
We’ll all see each other in 2021.
– Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN), June 25, 2020
Maybe he was joking. Professional sports can and will be practiced safely in the United States. As NASCAR has shown since resuming its racing schedule on May 17th in Darlington, this is already the case. However, there is no evidence that allowing large gatherings is a prudent decision. For this reason, Broadway is dark, rock stars are not on tour and the NWSL is starting its 2020 season this weekend without an audience.
IMS President Doug Boles told ticket holders that about half of their tickets should be placed “in or near your current seat”. Those who wish to keep more than half of their tickets may be admitted, but may need to move to a different location on the grandstand.
“We are committed to driving the Indy 500 on Sunday, August 23, and will be welcoming fans to the world’s largest race site,” said Boles in an IMS release. “We will limit the number of visitors to approximately 50 percent of the venue’s capacity and will complete a number of other carefully considered health and safety measures. We will announce the specific details of our comprehensive plan in the coming weeks. “
According to the press release, this plan already includes the following: “Individuals in high-risk groups are encouraged to consider staying at home and returning in 2021.”
MORE: May Without Indy 500 Was “Strange How Strange Can Be”
The 500 is usually a huge event in his city: concerts, a parade, the popular qualifying rounds, and usually an accompanying street race that takes place on the speedway grounds and sometimes on the track. Losing it would be a blow. So it always seemed likely that the race would continue.
And because the track is so extensive, it also seemed to be suitable for medium-sized viewers. It would be a blow to the excluded who made the 500 such an important part of their annual plan. But because of this pandemic, the Americans have sacrificed much more.
However, opening it to 50 percent capacity seems to be an unnecessary exercise in terms of hubris. We have seen what a similar, larger scale approach has done in states like Arizona, Texas and Florida. Indiana was not overwhelmed by the corona virus, but was never completely suppressed. The state had 60 percent more cases per capita than neighboring Ohio and 63 percent more deaths.
Speed is usually the crux of indy car racing.
However, this time it is going too fast.