Penske reverses course and closes Indianapolis 500 to fans

Roger Penske has reversed course and decided not to allow fans at the Indianapolis 500 later this month. The 104th running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” will be the first without spectators, who showed up at Indianapolis Motor Speedway every year, even during the Great Depression.

It was a flip for Penske, who purchased the iconic speedway in January and has spent every day since upgrading his new showplace to prepare for his favourite race. The pandemic forced the race to change dates for the first time, from Memorial Day weekend to Aug. 23.

Penske had initially said he wouldn’t run the 500 without fans. But as the pandemic continued to spread across the nation, the decision was made to limit capacity to 50%. The speedway then lowered that number to 25% and presented an 88-page manual on how to safely host spectators.

Cases have continued to rise — steadily in Indiana and specifically in Marion County, where the speedway is located — and Penske told The Associated Press on Tuesday the reversal on the spectator policy was “the toughest business decision I’ve ever made in my life.”

“We didn’t buy the Speedway for one year, we bought it for generations to come, and it’s important to our reputation to do the right thing,” Penske said in a telephone interview.

He said the financial ramifications of not hosting spectators — which even at 25% capacity, the mammoth facility could have held about 80,000 people — played no part in his decision. Rather, the continued increase of COVID-19 cases in Marion County made shutting out spectators the responsible decision.

“We need to be safe and smart about this,” Penske said. “Obviously we want full attendance, but we don’t want to jeopardize the health and safety of our fans and the

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Madrid Open cancelled because of COVID-19 spike in Spain

MADRID — The Madrid Open in September was cancelled on Tuesday because of a new spike in coronavirus cases in Spain.

The joint men’s and women’s tournament was originally scheduled in May, but moved when Spain became a hotbed for the virus. Its new slot in September allowed it again to be a major lead-in event for the rescheduled French Open at the end of that month.

But organizers last weekend were advised by local authorities not to stage the tournament due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

“Following the strong recommendation of the local health authorities, and having monitored the situation for months, the organizers of the Mutua Madrid Open have no choice but to cancel the tournament due to the complex situation that COVID-19 continues to generate in every regard,” organizers said in a statement.

“After a spike in COVID-19 cases, the community of Madrid announced a few days ago a number of new measures to control the virus’ spread, including a directive that social gatherings are to be reduced to 10 people, both in public and private meetings, further reducing the feasibility of operating the tournament.”

Spain was one of the hardest-hit countries by the coronavirus. The pandemic had been under control until the recent spikes in cases across the country.

“We have given our all to stage the tournament,” Madrid Open tournament director Feliciano Lopez said. “The continued instability is still too great to hold a tournament like this in complete safety.”

The second edition of the revamped Davis Cup, set to be played again in Madrid this year, had already been cancelled as promoters didn’t want the event to go on without fans.

The Madrid Open was to mark the start of the European clay season, after the U.S. Open.

Tour-level tennis resumed only this

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Pakistan will need more than just Babar Azam magic to defy England with the bat

Pakistan will be aiming to extend their excellent record against England in the past decade when the two sides meet in the first Test in Manchester on Wednesday.

The hosts will be buoyant after a come-from-behind victory against West Iindies last month, although they have failed to beat Pakistan in a Test series for nearly a decade.

For the tourists, dusting off the cobwebs will take priority as they take the field for their first Test encounter since February. Adapting to conditions quickly in England will not be an easy feat, but Pakistan have shown that they are capable of doing so in their two most recent tours of the country.

The fact that England aren’t the quickest of starters is a vulnerability the visitors can exploit at Old Trafford Cricket Ground. In eight of their last 10 series, Joe Root’s men have suffered a defeat in the opening Test.

While their victory over West Indies in the deciding Test was an emphatic one, the hosts were given several uncomfortable moments in the preceding three-match series. With an enviable pace attack containing Naseem Shah at their disposal, Pakistan will definitely back themselves to give England a far more rigorous examination than the Caribbean side.

However, it is their batting which will ultimately decide their fate in the series. England’s pace unit is buzzing with confidence after the heroics of a rejuvenated Stuart Broad against the West Indies.

Having just joined the elusive 500-wickets club, an in-form Broad will prove to be a handful to handle for the visitors.

Meanwhile, veteran seamer James Anderson is just 11 wickets away from becoming the first fast bowler in history to claim 600 Test wickets. The unsettling pace of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood will be troublesome too, as will the reliable swing of

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