Sport is hoping for a happy new year after 12 months of uncertainty when the coronavirus pandemic brought delays, postponements and cancellations to the 2020 calendar.
With vaccines on the way and light at the end of the sporting tunnel, 2021 will hopefully be the sporting year that 2020 should have been.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the big sporting events we can look forward to in 2021.
The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo was the biggest casualty of the global pandemic. Over 200 countries and 11,000 athletes had been expected in Japan last summer before the Games were put on hold in March. The International Olympic Committee remains confident that the Games will take place in front of spectators and is preparing to fund a mass vaccination programme for those intending to visit Tokyo. The 32nd Olympic Games are due to take place from July 23-August 8 with the Tokyo Paralympics held between August 24 and September 5.
UEFA delayed its showpiece event in March to allow domestic leagues to finish during the summer. The tournament will run from June 11-July 11, with the semi-finals and final due to be played at Wembley. But doubts persist over the practicalities of staging the competition across 12 host nations amid a global pandemic. While UEFA considers that issue, England, Scotland – having qualified for a first major tournament since 1998 – and Wales can prepare to join the 24-team party. The tournament will still be called Euro 2020, Portugal are the holders, and a Wembley group date for England and Scotland on June 18 adds extra spice.
The British and Irish Lions will head to South Africa for an eight-match tour in July, having already played a warm-up game against Japan at Edinburgh. Thousands of Lions fans have already booked their places for a tour of five provincial games and a three-match Test series with the world champions from July 24-August 7. With players desperate to impress Lions head coach Warren Gatland, who will be in charge for a third time, the 2021 Six Nations Championship between February 6 and March 20 will take on extra importance.
Anyone for tennis?
The Wimbledon Championships will return on June 28 after the 2020 edition was cancelled because of coronavirus. The men’s singles final will be played on July 11, the same day as the Euro 2020 final at Wembley. Two-time winner Andy Murray has not played singles at Wimbledon since 2017 because of injuries and the Scot’s return would be an emotional occasion. Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep are the defending men’s and women’s singles champions from 2019.
Cricket has a busy year ahead with the England men’s team off to Sri Lanka and India before one-day and T20 matches against Sri Lanka and Pakistan and a five-Test home series against India. All eyes will be on the inaugural Hundred tournament in July and August, the eight-team men’s and women’s competition which was postponed in 2020 because of the pandemic. The year finishes with the men’s T20 World Cup in India and the start of England’s bid to regain the Ashes in Australia.
The 2020 Open Championship was the only one of golf’s four majors to be cancelled in 2020. The 149th Open Championship will take place on the Kent coastline at Royal St George’s Golf Club in Sandwich from July 15-18. Its Sunday conclusion is on the same day as Formula One’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone and the final day of cycling’s Tour de France. Irishman Shane Lowry is the defending champion after his 2019 victory at Royal Portrush. There will be more golfing drama when the United States and Europe meet at the re-arranged Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, from September 24-26.
Best of the rest
Rugby league has a World Cup to look forward to in England with men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments. England kick-off the men’s tournament against Samoa in Newcastle on October 23, with the final at Old Trafford on November 27. Snooker’s World Championship in Sheffield is back in its traditional spring date between April 17 and May 3, the London Marathon is on October 3, and American football fans have inked February 7 in their diaries as Super Bowl Sunday. And, potentially, heavyweight kings Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury might just get round to meeting each other in the boxing ring in 2021.