New Zealand Sporting Events Will Have Fans in Attendance

New Zealand Rugby
New Zealand Rugby / Hannah Peters/Getty Images

On Monday, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern happily announced to the world that her country is coronavirus-free. It has been 75 days since New Zealand instituted its lockdown protocols, and now two weeks since the last known case of the virus. New Zealand's population will now be able to return to their normal lives with absolutely no restrictions.

This is extraordinarily encouraging news for everybody. While most countries still have a lot of work to do in order to get to where New Zealand is, the simple fact that they got there is reason for optimism. What this also means is that we sports fans will be seeing fans packing seats once more. With all restrictions being lifted, New Zealanders can flock to stadiums en masse.

As it so happens, their next opportunity is right around the corner. The five teams in New Zealand's rugby league are set to begin a tournament this weekend that has been put forth as a replacement for the annual international Super Rugby tournament, which was postponed earlier this year. Saturday's matchup between the Highlanders and the Chiefs will be the second sporting event in the world to have seats filled with fans behind last weekend's Vietnamese soccer match that also had attendees.

The United States is obviously a long way away from declaring itself COVID-free. Potentially a very long way away. There may not be fans allowed at games at all in 2020, much less filling stadiums and arenas to full capacity. But what goes on in New Zealand over the next several weeks will be worth watching. If rugby fans gather in the thousands and emerge on the other side unscathed, that's a light at the end of the tunnel for all of us across the pond.

If anything, it will at least be a little therapeutic to turn on any sporting event at all and hear the familiar roar of the crowd. Hopefully it's just the beginning.