Montreal·Analysis

Sports reopening in Quebec not the summer sizzle many had hoped for

The list of permitted activities as of May 20th in Quebec revealed by Isabelle Charest provided little for families wondering what their kids will be able to do this summer.

Biggest letdown came for kids who play team sports like soccer and baseball

Soccer is among the team sports not permitted in Quebec this summer. (Verity Stevenson/CBC)

In the most optimistic of scenarios, the minister responsible for sports, Isabelle Charest, was going to step up to the podium and say something along the lines of "Let's play ball."

Kids would then rush out of their homes and onto soccer fields and into ballparks around the province.

Of course, few honestly thought it would be as easy as flipping a switch.

But after two months without any organized sports and with the weather finally starting to warm up, it's understandable that when we hear this week Charest was poised to reveal her plan for reopening local sports, our minds jumped ahead.

You could almost smell the meat sizzling on the portable barbecue next to the softball diamond with an error-filled rec league game in progress.

Perhaps predictably, aside from giving a nod to golf and singles tennis, the announcement didn't include any summer sizzle for most sports.

The biggest letdown came for the kids who play team sports like soccer and baseball.

Charest said public health officials and sports organizations are working on how to adapt team sports to be compliant with physical-distancing guidelines, but she wouldn't offer a timeline or any assurances. In other words, keep waiting. There is no news.

Jump in a lake

The list of permitted activities Charest revealed Wednesday focused exclusively on what can be done individually and outdoors.

Most items on the list were things that most folks probably didn't think they needed explicit permission to do anyway.

Joggers have been out in huge numbers since the lockdown began. That activity is now officially approved as, of May 20.

Swimming in open water is allowed. But was there really going to be someone policing us if we decided to jump in a lake?

Cycling is among the sports Quebec will allow this summer, but people never really stopped riding their bike due to the pandemic. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Cycling, hiking, kayaking and canoeing got the OK, but one could argue all those activities were also going to occur with or without the government's blessing.

It's nice to know they're officially allowed, but you can see why many saw the announcement as a bit of a dud — especially for families wondering what their kids will be doing this summer.

A modest list was the only way to be inclusive

The evolving and serious public health situation is a perfectly legitimate reason for Charest's first phase of reopening sports to be so modest.

Her plan had to be crafted so that it could be applied to the province as a whole, including Montreal, where the COVID-19 death count is still rising by dozens each day.

Different rules for different regions would have tempted some to travel away from home so they could get active and play their sport.

Travelling between different regions in the province for recreation is not permitted because the government says it could undermine efforts to contain the outbreak.

Charest said her plan will continue to roll out in phases but how much she can allow is entirely dependent on what public health deems is safe.

Right now that doesn't include any activity where people are gathering in groups, sharing equipment or making contact with one another.

Golfers and tennis players rejoice

The big winners from this week's announcement are golf courses and tennis clubs.

Other provinces, like British Columbia, already allow tennis. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The golf industry has been arguing since the pandemic began that their sport is a natural fit for physical distancing.

They've also been proactive in creating a new set of pandemic-friendly rules which the Quebec Golf Course Association says the 350 or so courses around the province are ready to apply.

For tennis clubs there will also be new rules. No double matches are allowed for the time being, and all games must happen on outdoor courts.

Still, being able to play singles with another person is a marked improvement over hitting a ball off a brick wall in the parking lot of an abandoned school — which is something we've seen a lot of since March.

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