Will virtual competition become the new normal in the world of sports?

Trend draws mixed reaction from sports organizers, enthusiasts

By: Glendale Rosal - Multimedia Correspondent - CDN Digital | February 20,2021 - 09:00 AM

CEBU CITY, Philippines— One of the worst-hit sectors of the COVID-19 pandemic in Cebu is the sports industry. Despite this, Cebuano sports organizers and enthusiasts still found a convenient way to stage sporting events in the middle of the pandemic. Their efforts paved the way to the concept of virtual sports competition.

Last year, Cebuano sports enthusiasts eagerly displayed their skills in different sports through online competitions. Among the most notable events last year were virtual foot races and virtual chess tournaments. This trend continues to vibe this year as Cebu and the rest of the country prohibits most sporting events from being held physically. 

So, will virtual sports competitions become the new normal, or is it just a temporary trend to keep athletes active? CDN Digital asked some Cebuano sports personalities if they believe that this trend will stay or not. 

ON VIRTUAL COMPETITION. John Pages, Cebu Executive Runners Club official, says that physical races will return to replace virtual competitions once the pandemic is gone. | CDN file photo

John Pages (2nd from left) together with other Cebu Executive Runners Club officials holds a press briefing in January 2018 for the year’s marathon organized by the group. | CDN Digital file photo 

John Pages, Cebu marathon organizer

For Pages and the rest of the organizing team from Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC), they bear witness to the success of staging a virtual footrace. 

They successfully capped off Cebu Marathon 2021, with over 2,000 runners participated in the virtual run. Runners have to complete the designated distances on their own within the given timeframe. Instead of the usual mass gun start, the CERC and Pages managed to organize a running event held individually by runners. 

The runners were allowed to complete the 15-kilometer (15K), 21-kilometer (21K) , and 42-kilometer (42K) distances from January 8 to 25. 

Despite the success, Pages is very optimistic that mass-based events such as theirs will return soon. 

“Virtual runs will continue to be popular in 2021 and 2022,” Pages told CDN Digital. “After next year, the regular mass-based events will surely return.”

For him, the experience of running alongside thousands of participants is unparalleled compared to running alone. 

“Like the Cebu Marathon, there’s nothing like running alongside thousands of others and hearing the Sinulog music and receiving that medal as you cross the finish line,” Pages described. 

He said that he was not anticipating that sports events’ virtual format would thrive even with small-scale competitions. 

“I believe only the major races will be successful such as New York and London Marathons for example. They will continue to offer virtual races,” said Pages.

Virtual competion especially on virtual chess will slowly fade once the pandemic is gone, says IM Kim Steven Yap. | Inquirer.net file photo

IM Kim Steven Yap says virtual chess will slowly fade because of the difficulty of implementing rules that will prevent cheating in this kind of setup. | Inquirer.net file photo

International Master (IM) Kim Steven Yap

IM Yap believes that virtual chess competitions and other virtual sports events will slowly disappear when everything is back to normal. 

His main reason that this trend will likely die in this sport is that players have found many ways to cheat.

“Para nako, murag mohinay na siya og ka wala ig balik sa Over The Board (OTB). Lisod ang online chess daghan kaayo’g paagi makacheat ang players, unya naa ka doubt permi against your opponent especially if naay history sa cheating kay di ka makafocus. Also lain ang perspective sa board and wala kay psychology involved,” IM Yap shared. 

(For me, I think this trend will slowly fade once the Over the Board (OTB) [games will return]. Online chess is difficult because there are many ways that players can cheat, and you always doubt your opponent especially if your opponent has a history of cheating and you will find it difficult to focus on the game. And also your perspective of the board on online chess is different and there is no psychology involved.)

Virtual chess competitions cannot stay, according to IM Yap, given that there are extreme measures to be imposed to prevent cheating during the competition. 

Virtual competition to stay. Rickay Ballesteros says this is the new normal. Photo shows Ballesteros, Milo Marathon Queen Joy Tabal and a Milo Marathon official during the 2018 Milo Marathon press briefing. | CDN file photo

Ricky Ballesteros (left), Milo Marathon organizer, (left) believes that virtual competition will be the new normal for the sport because COVID-19 is here to stay. | CDN file photo

Ricky Ballesteros, Milo Marathon and Milo Little Olympics organizer

Ballesteros, meanwhile, said that with or without the vaccines, COVID-19 is here to stay. For him, the current situation today is the new normal. 

He believes that the trend of virtual sports competitions will likely stay given the current situation today.

“We have to plan ahead. We just have to make the necessary adjustments to meet the unique necessities and circumstances in our current situation,” said Ballesteros./dbs

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