It has been a long, long time. For more than a year life literally stood still. Not only at one place in the world, but on the entire planet, all public life was driven down by the governments. Curfews, closed shops, closed bars, closed casinos, home office.
Although almost all the places in the world were impacted equally by the worldwide pandemic, in some places it made a bigger difference than in others. A village in Germany or a small town in the south of Italy with just a few shops for groceries did not change too much, as not many visitors would come and the heated and packed street life of the big cities never reached there.
Other places like big cities were obviously impacted way stronger by the measures the governments had to take in order to prevent a wider spread of the virus. Streets and boulevards which used to be crowded and full of life were suddenly deserted and empty. No soul on the street, all shops and clubs closed, a picture that we just knew from post-apocalyptic films so far.
Especially cities which live from the nightlife and tourism have been hit hard by the lockdowns and literally turned into spooky ghost towns. One of these megacities is Las Vegas. The city in the desert of Nevada has been in lockdown for fifteen straight months and transformed from a flamboyant spectacle into a deserted abandoned place of a Mad Max picture.
Gamblers and Casino fans from all over the world that usually flooded the streets and hotels in the city had to find different options to continue their hobby. Many have turned to online gambling like Online Blackjack which became increasingly popular in the past two years.
Las Vegas is back in the game
Now finally the notorious desert town is back and tourists and gamblers are streaming in again which almost immediately resulted in an all-time high of the gambling revenue. Casinos and hotels started to open and celebrate the returning life to the city. Not only have famous casinos reopened, but also new ones were introduced.
The first new megacasino on the Strip in more than a decade, the $4.3 billion Resorts World, opened recently as huge amounts of mostly maskless tourists indulge in the city’s famous casinos once again.
Malaysia’s Genting Group developed the unbelievably huge hotel with 117000 square feet of gambling space, 3500 rooms, 250000 square feet of meeting space, a 5000-seat theatre where Celine Dion and Katy Perry begin residencies later this year and seven swimming pools overlooking the north end of the Strip. This resort is known to be one of the biggest resort projects ever on the famed boulevard, similar in scope to the Bellagio or the Venetian.
Also, the government joined the celebration. The new Vice President Kamala Harris was set to visit roughly a week ago. The White House set up a tour through the states called the “America’s Back Together” tour celebrating progress against the virus.
After a historic shutdown last year, Las Vegas casinos began to reopen cautiously, with mask requirements, plexiglass barriers, limited offerings beyond gambling and generally all measures required to deal with such an amount of people coming in. Today, it almost looks like evidence of the global health crisis is fading away as crowds of tourists pack casinos, pools, shows and restaurants.
So, money is apparently flowing in, the required health measures are in place and the expectations are high. But premature celebration and carelessness may have their price.
Corona on the rise again
While the president of Resort Worlds Las Vegas Scott Sibella is confident about the development, commenting that it would be an especially lucky time to reopen and stating that Las Vegas was going to open one way or another, as it is getting better every day in the city, the numbers tell a different story.
The progress is there and obviously seeable, but it may be under threat. In the last weeks, Nevada saw the highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in the country. Furthermore, hospitalizations are on the rise again and the highly contagious delta variant has become the most prevalent form of the virus in the state, adding urgency to the campaign to get more people vaccinated.
Measures to prevent the virus from rising again are hard to develop, if at home or in the biggest hotel resorts. In a place like Las Vegas where the economy is basically run by crowds of tourists and careless behaviour, return to pandemic-related restrictions and mask requirements seems to be off the table.
Although almost all gambling spaces are in closed establishments, guests are not required to wear masks. While guests are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated, the employees and workers in the establishments do not appear to be asking anyone for proof of being treated. Still, many hotels and casinos are putting efforts into getting their employees vaccinated, but the guests are still the priority. So crowded places and casinos can still be a reason for the virus to spread again.
Las Vegas fully reopened and lifted restrictions on most businesses on June 1, though many casino resorts had already returned to 100% capacity before that with approval from state regulators. Visitor numbers, while not at their pre-pandemic highs, have grown by double digits four months in a row.
Locals, tourists and resorts are happy to finally come back to the pearl of the Nevadan dessert and bring life to the level it used to be. Spectacular light shows, incredible high fountains, huge hotel resorts and the best casinos in the world are looking forward to a bright and glamorous future with high numbers in profits and visitors.
Still, the local authorities, as well as the visitors and establishments themselves, have to be careful and let the whole thing start slowly and controlled in order to prevent another fatal lockdown of this colourful city in the middle of the desert.
ROME - With the Azzurri back in Italy after their victory at the European Championships, the country burst into celebration, with parties in streets and piazzas lasting from Sunday night well into Monday. However, it wasn’t all good times, with several concerns being raised about the Covid-19 safety of the festivities, and many fans being injured, one boy even dying in Caserta.
The 19-year-old was killed during celebrations in Caltagirone, in the province of Caserta, in a car crash that involved the car of a security firm, two scooters and a motorbike. Four others were injured, but none too seriously.
While the victorious national side were being greeted by Mario Draghi at a ceremony in Rome, which also included Matteo Berrettini, the first ever Italian to get to the final of Wimbledon (losing to Novak Djokovic on Sunday), celebrations were getting out of hand throughout the country. In Milan alone 15 people were injured, three of which very seriously.
A 21-year-old man lost three fingers from the explosion of a firework, and a 30-year-old was hit in the stomach by a cherry bomb. A 22-year-old man sustained a chest injury from the edge of a metal barrier, presumably shoved by crowds.
In Milan, several trams and public buses were stormed by the crowds and several fans were seen diving (or drunkenly falling) into the waters of the Darsena. Riot police were called in Milan, and several other Italian cities.
In London meanwhile, where the mood was significantly less jubilant, there were similar scenes of unrest and several arrests were made. The Met Police recorded 49 arrests at Wembley were thousands fans attempted to break down barriers to get into the stadium, injuring in the process 19 police officers.
There were reports from around England of thousands of fights breaking out, with English fans storming Italian businesses or beating up Italian fans. In London’s Leicester Square, a large contingent of celebrating Italian fans were guarded by police officers from rowdy English fans.
After three young black players missed penalties for England on Sunday, it was also reported a huge rise in racist abuse targeted towards them on social media, with several public figures, including PM Boris Johnson, being quick to denounce it.
However, international media, particularly Italian, was quick to pick up on the “darkest hour” for English football, of racism and violence. As Fabrizio Rancone writes in Corriere Della Sera, from the English players taking off the silver medal just received, to the Italians beaten up outside the stadium, “where is the English sportsmanship and the famous British style?”
As the coach carrying Italian players paraded around the Italian capital on Monday, it was also noted the distinct lack of safety precautions. Il Fatto Quotidiano reports how authorities had allowed a loosening of restrictions for the celebrations, only granted on Monday, which inevitably led to throngs of maskless fans swarming the streets for a glimpse of the victorious Azzurri.
LONDON - Italy have beaten England to win the 2020 European Championships, their first since 1968, and sixth major international football trophy. With the game drawn 1-1 after 120 minutes, Italy won 3-2 on penalties.
Having failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, a huge upset for the Azzurri, this victory is a huge vindication for an Italian side that many believe had their best days behind them. Italy have only lost two of their 39 matches since Roberto Mancini took over, and Italy will be hoping this is only a sign of good things to come.
While Italy have smashed England’s hopes of ‘football coming home,’ the 2022 World Cup is less than a year and a half away and England will be able to take many positives from their tournament performance, going to Qatar full of confidence in what they have achieved with such a young team.
The England squad for the Euros had an average age of 25.4, compared to Italy’s 27.8, and only Turkey had a younger squad in the tournament. England will now be hoping to use this tournament to add experience to their youth and talent, and go one better at the World Cup next November.
As Vittorio Sabadin writes in La Stampa, “England has lost, but no fear: no one like the English can turn defeats into victories. Despite the bitterness and the rain, people crowded the streets of London until late at night, and many easily drowned the disappointment with beer.”
The match couldn’t have started any better for England, with a goal after just a minute and a half. Harry Kane plays the ball down to Kieran Trippier with bags of space on the right hand side, who lofts the ball over the Italian defence to left-back Luke Shaw at the far post, who hits a sweet half-volley past a hopeless Gianluigi Donnarumma.
The rest of the first half was a close affair; though Italy dominated possession, England, defended very well, put lots of pressure on Italy when they had they ball, and in attack looked very dangerous. With referee Bjorn Kuipers not penalising many soft fouls, the match at times was very back and forth, with both teams managing to cut into the box and create chances.
The second half, however, Italy stepped up and began to look more like the side from the first few matches of the tournament, with brilliant attacking football and patient, measured passing. England looked like they were perhaps beginning to tire, having been defending for much of the match, and Italian forwards Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Insigne began to shine, the England defence struggling to keep them contained.
Italy’s equaliser finally came from a corner in the 67th minute. The ball is flicked on by Bryan Cristante and Kieran Trippier tussling at the front post, it bounces to Marco Verratti, whose header towards the bottom corner is brilliantly saved by Jordan Pickford, but it bounces off the post to the feet of Leonardo Bonucci, who can tap it in past a lunging Harry Kane.
After half an hour of extra time, in which Italy seemed to be getting better and better, still with masses of energy having used all six of their available substitutions (while England only replaced four tiring players), the unavoidable penalty shootout finally arrived, something that England given their history were definitely trying to avoid.
Despite a miss by Italy’s penalty specialist Jorginho, three England youngsters missed theirs, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, in the end giving Italy their well-deserved victory.
LONDON - With Italy preparing to face England in the final of the European Championships on Sunday, the Azzurri will receive not only the support of 60 million Italians, but five and a half Scots as well, as illustrated by the front page of the Scottish daily newspaper The National.
The paper depicts the Italian manager Roberto Mancini as the Scottish folk hero William Wallace (or more specifically, Mel Gibson in Braveheart), who fought the English King Edward I for Scottish independence. Scotland's adage of 'anyone but England' has now brought them to supporting Italy, with leading national papers even getting in on the fun, finding more and more creative ways to express their dislike of their southern neighbours.
The caption to the photo reads, "Save us Roberto, you're our final hope (we can't take 55 more years of them banging on about this)," in reference to the last and only time England won a major trophy with the 1966 World Cup.
LONDON - With only a 1,000 Italian fans being allowed to fly out to Wembley for the final of the European Championships, it will be an exclusive group. It has now been revealed exactly how exclusive, with the journey costing 700 euros per person; 610 euros for the flight and 95 for the match ticket.
UEFA have allowed the Italian Football Federation to fly out 1,000 fans in chartered flights (no regular flights allowed), to be sat in a separate, reserved section of the stadium.
With such a limited number allowed, as a result of anti-Covid restrictions and fear surrounding the Delta variant, Il Fatto Quotidiano has predicted that there will be five times as many English fans at Wembley than Italian.
Of the 65,000 fans on Sunday, it is expected that at least 60,000 will be UK residents, the only people allowed a no-fuss journey to the ground. Apart from a small contingent of Italian residents in the country, the rest will be English, providing an unavoidable advantage to the home team.
This advantage has the Italian press buzzing with accusations of favouritism by UEFA, or at least just poor organisation. England have played all their matches so far at Wembley, bar only one, and while this does make sense logistically and safety-wise, many teams who have been forced to travel thousands of miles for their matches are understandably bitter.
Many European leaders, Mario Draghi included, have attempted to fight the Wembley final on the grounds of the risk of the Delta variant currently sweeping through the UK (and for some, Il Fatto Quotidiano suggests, an anti-Brexit thing), but they were unsuccessful.
While typically in major tournament finals the home side is thought to have an advantage, the home side hasn’t won the Euros since 1968, when Italy beat Yugoslavia at the Stadio Olimpico.
ROME - The Quirinal has confirmed that Italian President Sergio Mattarella will be travelling to London to watch Italy play England in the final of the Euros.
The decision was announced in the late hours of Thursday, after taking into consideration all the sanitary precautions. The alternative would have been Prime Minister Mario Draghi flying to London, as the presence of a representative of the country was never in doubt, but Mattarella was chosen at the last minute.
The presence of the President at a major tournament final will no doubt remind many Italians of the famous appearance of Sandro Pertini at the 1982 World Cup final in Madrid. A highly popular president, he was lauded for attending the match, in which Italy beat Germany 3-1, seemingly as a fan not a politician. He famously wagged his finger at the German contingent as if to stay you can't catch us anymore, after Italy scored their third goal.
He was also pictured playing cards on the plane with coach Enzo Bearzot, players Dino Zoff and Franco Causio and the World Cup trophy.
LONDON - With thousands of Italians expected to travel to London for the final of the European Championships on Sunday, many staying at home have expressed fear of a major outbreak of coronavirus given the vast and ever rising number of cases in the UK.
Speaking regarding the matches at Wembley (semi-finals and final) being a possible 'super-spreader event,' the British Secretary of State for Business, Kwasi Kwarteng said, "I think we can manage this risk but to say there is no risk, if you have thousands of people in one place... there's always risk in life. I think we're managing the risk. I'm confident there won't be a big outbreak but we can't guarantee that now."
There were around 60,000 (out of a possible 90,000) people packed into Wembley Stadium on Wednesday for England's semifinal victory over Denmark, and though all fans were required to show proof either of vaccination or a negative lateral flow test, there is definite risk of contagion, especially with fans not required to wear masks.
The lax safety restrictions worrying Italian fans are in line with the British plans, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week, to get rid of all restrictions and social distancing measures by July 19.
Pierpaolo Sileri, the Italian Deputy Health Minister has said, regarding the match on Sunday, "I would allow access only with the [green] pass, that is, you enter the stadium either vaccinated, negative swab done or if you have already recovered from Covid." The goal, Sileri continues, is "to reduce the chances that someone can contract the Delta variant and then maybe bring it back to their place of origin."
The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) is flying 1,000 Italian fans to London, in chartered flights, to sit in one reserved section of the stadium, as a way of keeping them as much as possible in a 'bubble.' They will also be required to only stay in England for 12 hours, as well as having to take a negative test and quarantine for five days on return to Italy.
Some virologists and politicians have also expressed worries about the street parties that erupt whenever Italy win, and the doubtless even bigger party that will take place throughout the country if Italy win on Sunday. The virologist Fabrizio Pregliasco called it an "uncalculated risk," adding that "the scenes we have seen are somthing deadly."
"It is clear that we will inevitably pay for something in terms of infection, with some outbreaks," said Massimo Andreoni, Head of Infectious Diseases at the Policlinico Tor Vergata in Rome. "Whenever there are gatherings and an uncontrolled condition something emerges."
LONDON - Italy have earned themselves a place in the final of the 2020 European Championships with a win over Spain on penalties, but not before a gruelling 120 minutes of football that saw plenty of chances go amiss for both sides, and Spain arguably the more dominant side.
Tuesday night’s match, the first of the two semifinals, was held at a Wembley stadium with almost 58,000 fans, one of the largest turnouts for a English sporting event since the start of the pandemic. Both sides had complained before the match about the lack of respective national fans allowed into the stadium, and although fans were in loud voice throughout, providing a great atmosphere of support for both teams, there were moments in which it became obvious that many of the tickets had gone to opportunistic English fans seizing on the increased attendance and tough travel circumstances, with sections of the stadium breaking out into a rousing rendition of “Football’s Coming Home.”
With the football underway, the first half was one dominated by Spain. Throughout the tournament they have had the highest average possession of any team, and this match wasn’t any different, though they were up against a much tougher defence.
Italy were happy to sit back and defend, however they didn’t look as comfortable in defence as they have previously, and when they had the opportunity to hit Spain on the counter attack they often fluffed their lines.
Both teams had a couple of chances in the first half, a brilliant run by Spain’s Dani Olmo earning him a shot at goal from close range - saved by the excellent Gianluigi Donnarumma - and Italy’s Emerson Palmieri hitting the cross bar from a tight angle, but neither team ever really seemed like scoring, the defences proving too much.
The second half both teams began to really throw themselves at it and the game developed into exciting goal to goal football. It was Italy to break the deadlock first, with a goal, unsurprisingly, from a counterattack.
Donnarumma started the move from a Spain attack that came to nothing, rolling the ball out to Marco Verratti, out to Insigne on the wing and almost immediately a pass to Ciro Immobile put him through on goal. Aymeric Laporte made an excellent tackle but the ball fell to Federico Chiesa, who only need three touches before curling it into the far corner.
Just three minutes later Spain were mere inches away from equalising, when Mikel Oyarzabal failed to get his head on a ball deftly lifted over the Italian defence by Koke. Any connection would undoubtedly have been in the back of the net.
Spain finally got their deserved first goal in the 80th minute. A quick one-two by substitute Alvaro Morata and Dani Olmo cut through the Italian back line and Morata provided a neat finish past Donnarumma to make it 1-1 with ten minutes left of normal time.
Extra time rolled on and though both sides were becoming desperate, fatigue was beginning to clearly show and no goals were forthcoming. The Spanish had the better chances in the final thirty minutes, and Italy were perhaps more willing to hold out for penalties after a couple of nervy, every-body-on-the-line moments in their penalty box.
Penalty misses by Dani Olmo and Alvaro Morata (and Italy’s Manuel Locatelli) gave Jorginho the chance to win it for Italy with their fifth penalty. He looked confident and his signature hop didn’t fail him, burying it into the bottom corner.
Spain looked better than they have done all tournament, having only won one match in 90 minutes (against Slovakia), and Italy didn’t look as assured as they have done in their previous matches, but in the end the Azzurri had the quality to secure victory.
LONDON - Italy are gearing up for their Euros semi-final against Spain at Wembley on Tuesday night, though preparations will be marred by the absence of Leonardo Spinazzola, a shining light of their tournament so far, out with a ruptured achilles tendon he sustained in their quarter-final against Belgium.
Roma’s Spinazzola was picked at left-back above Emerson Palmieri, the Brazilian-born Chelsea left-back, for all of their Euros matches so far, in one of the many decisions that manager Roberto Mancini has got right throughout the tournament, providing the oppportunity for one of the breakout players of the tournament (at least for non-Italian audiences).
Palmieri, who had allegedly wanted to quit football as a teenager if his mum hadn’t persistently taken him to training everyday, has only played 15 times for Chelsea this season, and is arguably their third choice left-back. He will be looking to redeem himself at the stadium where just over a month ago Chelsea won the Champions League without him.
Italy and Spain haven’t played each other since 2017 (a match Spain won 3-0), but the two have played each other in each of the last three European Championships, with Spain knocking Italy out in 2008 and 2012 (going on to win both tournaments), and the opposite happening in 2016 with a 2-0 victory for Italy.
Aside from Spinazzola’s absence, Italy’s line up on Tuesday night is likely to be much the same as in their quarter final against Belgium. Giorgio Chiellini will undoubtedly start at centre back, winning his 111th cap for the Italian national side, only one less than Italy’s legendary goalkeeper Dino Zoff.
The only other decision Mancini is expected to make is that of who will occupy the right wing, either Juventus’ Federico Chiesa, who started, for only the second time this tournament, against Belgium, or Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi, who seems to have been Mancini’s first choice in the opening matches to occupy the third attacking position (with Immobile and Inisgne) in Italy’s customary 4-3-3.
Spain coach Luis Enrique meanwhile has more difficult decisions to make. With Pablo Sarabia out with an injury, Enrique will have to choose between Gerard Moreno and Dani Olmo to replace him. Enrique may also rethink the centre back pairing of Pau Torres and Aymeric Laporte, who have not been so convincing.
Alvaro Morata, despite much flack from fans over his inability to score, is likely to start up front against his two Juve teammates, Chiellini and Bonucci, who undoubtedly know him well.
ROME - With England’s quarter-final against Ukraine due to take place in Rome on Saturday, England and Italy are becoming increasingly worried about the English fans at the match; Italians fear there’ll be too many and the English fear not enough.
With the UK’s delta variant cases still rising, Italy have cracked down on British tourists coming into the country, imposing a five day quarantine, meaning that any fan wishing to travel to the Rome to watch their country at the Stadio Olimpico would still be in quarantine when the final whistle is blown.
Non-essential travel is also banned from Ukraine, however, Ukrainians in Italy outnumber Brits eight to one (240,000 to 30,000). England fans living in Italy, or in the surrounding European countries where travel to Italy is easier, have been urged to buy tickets and show their support for their country, for fear that the English contingent at the Stadio Olimpico will be drowned out by Ukrainians.
On Wednesday the UK saw 26,000 new cases, the most since Jan. 23, and Italians are rightly fearful that a huge influx of English fans could cause a delta variant spike in their country, ruining a national reopening that is so far working pretty smoothly, with all but one regions in a white zone.
Massimo Andreoni, scientific director of the Italian Society for Infectious and Tropical Diseases (SIMIT), has said that allowing England fans into Rome would be a “hazard”.
The FA has been allotted 2,560 tickets to distribute among England fans, the majority of which would have usually gone to the England Supporters Travel Club. However, the FA have been working with UEFA to find British residents in Italy and Europe, and even other countries around the world where travel restrictions are looser, who could buy tickets and travel to Rome.
It was believed that the British Embassy in Rome were involved in the sale of tickets to British residents in Italy, but were forced to issue a statement to the contrary.
It is still believed, however, that there will be a sizeable England support in the Stadio Olimpico, with many English fans believed to be booking flights to Nice, close to the Italian border, and then driving to Rome.
Il Messaggero reported that it was the Mirror, a British tabloid, to suggest these “loopholes” to the travel restrictions imposed on Brits. They even suggested driving to Rome, though warned that it could take up to 20 hours in a car.
However, either of these routes would be violating the travel restrictions, as the rules imposed by the Italian Health Ministry declare that the five day quarantine period is for anyone who has been in the UK in the last 14 days - if these sneaky Brits manage to get in, they would still be acting in breach of Italy’s beloved restrictions.