THIS Ballarat Cup is one for the racing purists.
Gone is the extra fun and frivolity both inextricably part of Cup day and at the same time, often has little to do with the actual racing.
Ballarat Cup draws one of the city's biggest crowds for a sporting event, aside from the Australian road national cycling championships.
For all the hard work Ballarat Turf Club does on the track and the whole precinct, the club will be unable to capitalise on the imagination of the wider community.
This should not take away from the importance of Cup day for trainers and owners in what they achieve but, aside from racing lovers who watch on television or via other media, it is hard to show off to the general populace.
A crowdless Cup highlights the lingering toll and impacts the pandemic has on this city's sports, despite the fact there has been a move into summer sports, particularly with bowls and cricket back in action.
Crowd really is an integral part of these big sporting events.
In American football, NFL club Seattle Seahawks even reserve the number 12 jersey for their fans. This is not just a symbolic gesture but a culture that permeates the whole city - the fans can make an influential impact on the team.
For Richmond supporters, there is the Tiger Army with a collective passion that proved it transcends state borders this year.
In racing, the crowd works in a different fashion creating atmosphere on big race days. This is a time when even those with little understanding or appreciation of racing, and the incredible beasts in action, tend to ride the emotions of trying to back a winner.
There is the fashion, the food and spending time with friends that is still on pause.
We are far from alone. Tennis Australia has been mapping out how the highly-billed summer of tennis might work, even with a potential Victorian hub.
The Australian Open used to be just about the tennis. Getting off the train at Flinders Street, you would walk in a collective anticipation chatting to everyone about how to squeeze in as many matches as possible.
Ducking in and out of courts is now a luxury in what has become a festival with beer gardens, evening bands and shopping strips with high-end clothing labels.
The Open, like racing, is a chance to get out and socialise while also capturing imagination of people who might otherwise hardly be able to separate Djokovics from deuces - even if only for a couple of weeks.
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AFL clubs have their parochial followings. It will be interesting how much interest Ballarat Cup or the Australian Open will generate without, what effectively are, the side shows.
There are some great initiatives from Ballarat pubs to get people dressed up and enjoying good food and drinks to mark Cup day on Saturday - but how much will it really feel like Cup day away from the track and the thundering sensation of hooves flying past?
This pandemic has taught us we do not know what the next year will bring, but there is nothing quite like being there for sporting events and all the fun they bring.
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