NASCAR, the UFC and WWE continue to put on events during the COVID-19 pandemic, but these organizations do so without fans in attendance. This is not the case in New Zealand due to the coronavirus being "eradicated." Fans flocked to stadiums over the weekend to watch two Super Rugby matches.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently announced that the country had halted the spread of the coronavirus. There were no new cases, so New Zealand lifted nearly all restrictions put in place to slow the virus. This meant that fans could watch the Blues face the Hurricanes and the Chiefs face the Highlanders. An estimated 20,000 fans watched the latter match in Dunedin while a sellout crowd of 43,000 took in the Blues-Hurricanes game.
Thank you to our team of 5 million and all our essential workers who have sacrificed so much to get New Zealand back up and running. We salute you all. pic.twitter.com/a2FG21Rmnr— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) June 14, 2020
"We are confident we have eliminated transmission of the virus in New Zealand for now, but elimination is not a point in time, it is a sustained effort," Ardern said at a news conference. "We almost certainly will see cases here again, and I do want to say that again, we will almost certainly see cases here again, and that is not a sign that we have failed, it is a reality of this virus. But if and when that occurs we have to make sure — and we are — that we are prepared."
The prime minister announced at the time that restrictions on public events would no longer be in place. Shoppers could return to retail locations while citizens of the island nation could freely travel across the country without issue. Meanwhile, weddings and other functions could take place without limitations. This also applied to sports events, which led to the weekend's packed stadiums.
While rugby games featured massive crowds, sports in the United States continued with little to no attendance. The UFC held another event at the mostly-empty APEX Arena in Las Vegas. NASCAR, on the other hand, allowed 1,000 military members to attend Sunday's Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida. This sparse crowd spread out in the grandstands — while wearing masks — in order to adhere to social distancing policies. They remained in the audience despite multiple lightning delays that pushed the race well into the night.