Spectators will not be allowed at the Men's Hockey Junior World Cup scheduled to begin at Bhubaneswar on November 24 and the event will be a telecast-only affair, it was announced on Tuesday.
The Hockey India and International Hockey Federation (FIH) have jointly decided to hold the marquee quadrennial tournament under closed doors.
The tournament has suffered a few setbacks due to the Covid-19 pandemic with Australia, New Zealand, and England withdrawing their teams. While Australia and New Zealand decided to pull out their teams due to the travel restrictions imposed by their respective governments, England cited concerns over Covid cases in India as a reason to pull out of the event.
With this in mind, the organising committee has decided to be extra cautious. Earlier, there were reports that the Odisha government might allow 30 percent spectators inside the Kalinga stadium.
"With the sheer popularity of the sport in this region and expected crowds in the stadium, the organisers believe it would not be possible control that number of people and yet follow all the necessary covid guidelines and protocols laid out by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, State Government, FIH and Hockey I"dia," the organisers said in a release on Tuesda".
"Social distancing is a priority due to the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic situation and the safety of the fans and athletes needs to be prioritised," it said, adding that it was decided to hold the tournament in an environment where the health and safety of the participating teams in of paramount importance.
"While the stadium will only be open to accredited personnel and the participants of the tournament, the fans can tune in and cheer for their favourite teams and players, across platforms around the world for all games," the release added.
In all 16 teams including defending champions and hosts India, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Egypt, France, Germany, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, Spain, The Netherlands, and the United States. The final will be played on December 5.