People sit in their cars as they experience an immersive Vincent Van Gogh art exhibit in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo: Cole Burston / AFP)

The effects of Covid-19 on mass events are far from clear. It’s like humanity is currently paddling out at sea with no land in sight.

Countries have developed strategies. However, we still don’t know if the coast is near or far, although it looks like we’re heading in the right direction.

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The idea is to meet minimum safety parameters to allow for the opening of safe spaces and activities in accordance with the criteria of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals on the UN 2030 Agenda, especially Goal 11: make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

There’s also an idea of developing a pandemic resilience signaling system to determine the risk of infection, from very low to very high, according to geographical region.

This is something analogous to road traffic signs that indicate different levels of risk on the road, from school zones to winding roads.

future of mass events
People are seen wearing masks while social distancing as they experience an immersive Vincent Van Gogh art exhibit in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo: Cole Burston / AFP)

“The development of a signal that assesses the capacity to resist the epidemic in places of social interaction can be an invaluable tool to determine prevention policies on the one hand and measures of social containment and distancing on the other,” says Nuria Vallespín Toro, an architect from the University of La Laguna, Spain, in the article Epidemic Resilience Label for a Post-Covid City (ERL Project).

The academic also points out that signaling measures will encourage synergies for the development of the world economy in a post-pandemic environment.

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Social transformation

In this sense, Juan Pedro Zambón, founding partner of Venue Brand Experience, a production company responsible for organizing concerts, business meetings, and soccer tournaments such as Copa Libertadores or Copa América, confirms that these measures are part of a large social transformation.

“This is going to bring about geopolitical change. We’re going to move on to a phase in which we’ll have pandemic areas, zones where the border is going to determine the scope of the pandemic. And these zones are going to give all segments of the economy an opportunity to begin to develop again,” Zambón says in an interview with Tec Review.

As for international sports events, there is anecdotal evidence over the last 10 years during the occurrence of health emergencies.

The Vancouver Winter Olympics and the FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) World Cup in South Africa were held during the 2010 H1N1 influenza pandemic.

While during the 2015 Ebola virus outbreak, the Africa Cup of Nations was organized in Equatorial Guinea.

Finally, the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, were held in 2016 during the Zika virus outbreak, although some athletes, particularly golf delegations, didn’t attend because of the threat of infection.

Taking these experiences into account, Covid-19 represents a peculiar challenge that has generated novel technological strategies in sports venues.


the future of mass events
The film “Palm Springs” shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, which became a drive-in movie. (Photo: Mike Pont / Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival / AFP)

Screaming goal remotely

Streaming systems will increasingly be used in stadiums, according to Zambón, who adds that there are already other similar complementary interaction tools for online entertainment.

“The German Bundesliga, for example, was the first soccer league to resume play with no audience and with an official app called Myapplause, with four  buttons for virtual interaction: clapping, whistling, yelling goal, and singing,” explains Zambón.

This is how sports fans currently affect the mood of the players through home-operated sounds heard through stadium speakers.

Undoubtedly, this is an innovative but cold proposal, especially when compared to the explosive passion that is usually generated in the stands of a soccer stadium.

future of mass events
Georgi Asparuhov Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria. Levski Sofia fans are seen between cardboard cutouts in the stands before the game as matches resume after the outbreak of coronavirus disease. (Photo: Stoyan Nenov / Reuters)

The bubble audience

As for musical events, there are already projects in which physical barriers and diminishing audiences could give rise to hybrid forms of shows.

For example, in Córdoba, Argentina, concert halls are planning to reopen with musical quartets from mid-August, with an enclosed audience format.

“The audience area is going to be divided up, “Bubbles” will be created, whether with acrylic, panels, or fences, that will separate the people. This lowers the capacity in the specific space where the experiment is going to be performed, from 6,400 to 1,200 people,” says Zambón.

People participate in an outdoor yoga class inside domes at Hotel X in Toronto, Canada, to maintain social distancing measures. (Photo: Cole Burston / Getty Images / AFP)

The so-called bubbles aim to divide up the seating area into groups of up to two people, which will also be complemented by the online experience.

“The future of events is mixed: what’s coming in the medium term is a format in which we have a certain amount of face-to-face audience and a certain amount of streaming audience,” Zambón says.

However, the people who are not in the venue will also be able to interact through multimedia technology.

“On one screen, you can see up to 49 fans. If there are 10 screens (inside the forum), you would have 490 fans watching in real time. They won’t be able to speak because this would cause audio problems, but they can make signs instead.”

“We know that if you have a singer in front of an audience in a stadium with a capacity of 30 thousand people, the singer can make eye contact with up to 500 people. They don’t see the rest,” says the founding partner of Venue Brand Experience.

future of mass events
Fans attend a Garth Brooks live show as part of the Concerts in Your Car series at the Ventura County Fairgrounds and Event Center on June 27, 2020, in Ventura, California. (Photo: Rich Fury / Getty Images / AFP)

Adapt or get out of the game

For Zambón, the current situation is like a big laboratory where we’re all observing each other.

There is no way of knowing what the definitive answer is yet, but humanity will gradually find the right way forward with Covid-19, through trial and error.

future of mass events
People wear face masks on an amusement ride on July 3, 2020, on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey. (Photo: Mark Makela / Getty Images / AFP)

The pandemic, according to Zambón, has also made people more willing to listen to new proposals, and solutions will emerge as long as all participants keep talking to each other.

“Today, audiences, artists, and sponsors are very open to seeing what’s going to happen, and those who aren’t receptive are going to be left out of the game,” Zambón says.

Finally, the entrepreneur asserts that there are a few winners and many losers in every drastic situation, “and the main losers will be the those who resist change.”

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