Singapore MMA show test case for return of sports fans

Catherine LAI
·2 min read
Up to 250 fans will attend the mixed martial arts card "One: Inside the Matrix" on Friday in Singapore
Up to 250 fans will attend the mixed martial arts card "One: Inside the Matrix" on Friday in Singapore

Singapore's pilot initiative to carry out rapid coronavirus testing to allow fans into a One Championship MMA show could pave the way for other countries to host sports events during the pandemic, organisers said.

Sports have been slowly resuming worldwide after a months-long shutdown, but many events have gone ahead with no spectators, to reduce infection risks.

About 250 mask-wearing fans on Friday attended the mixed martial arts card, "One: Inside the Matrix", at an indoor stadium -- the city state's first sports event with an audience for months.

Spectators had to first get negative results in antigen tests, which can identify at least 80 percent of infected people and provide results in about 15 minutes.

The screenings are part of a government pilot programme under which people will be tested for Covid-19 before large-scale gatherings, and comes as Singapore prepares to further ease restrictions as its outbreak slows.

Teh Hua Fung, group president of Asia's biggest MMA promotion One Championship, said it was a "first for Singapore" which he hoped could "pave the way for others to follow as we safely return to some normalcy".

Spectators also sat apart from one another to reduce the risk of infection, and no food and drinks were on sale, with fans instead given goody bags.

- Quick results -

Ahead of the show, mask-wearing fans waited outside the stadium holding their test results, and were allowed in after having their temperatures checked and scanning a QR code.

Julien Bely, a 35-year-old spectator, said the testing process was "super easy, very well managed".

"Fifteen minutes, you get your results," he told AFP.

"I'm pumped to see everything's going back to normal safely, and hopefully it's going to be a good night."

Another fan, Dennis Tan, said he would be prepared to do the same thing for other sports events. 

"If it's a sport that I love to attend, definitely I don't mind doing that... I think it's worth it."

Ninety-eight people, including 42 athletes, have been flown into the city state for the event featuring six fights. Fifteen fights will also be pre-recorded for release at a later date.

Two men from the United States and Russia assisting the fighters tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, but the results were determined to be from previous infections, organisers said.

They were tested again on Thursday, and will only be allowed to participate if the latest tests show negative results.

One Championship was unable to hold matches for almost four months because of the pandemic, but it resumed in China in June and staged its first international event in Singapore this month, without fans.

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