Allow Fans to Attend the 2021 Little 500
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Each year, Indiana University students and fans gather together at the Bill Armstrong Stadium to cheer on the dedicated Little 500 cyclists. A tradition that began in 1951, the Little 500 was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where fans, students, and riders were ultimately stripped of experiencing one of the most unique embodiments of Indiana University's culture. Not only were fans devastated, the riders that train for months on end had no race to showcase their hard work to their family, friends, and teams.
Fortunately, the race will proceed on Wednesday May 26th, where the women's race will begin at 12pm, followed by the men's 4pm race start. Though riders are grateful for the opportunity to compete in the Little 500, the race will not truly feel like the storied event unless fans are in attendance. As it stands now, no fans - not even parents of riders - will be allowed to attend the race, despite IU Athletics allowing parents of athletes to attend events, as well as popular Bloomington bars and restaurants reopening at full capacity. Every rider you will speak to will tell you that the race is simply not the same without spectators cheering them on, and now is the time to fight for this change.
As of May 14th, Monroe County, who was most responsible for the race's postponement and refusal to allow spectators into the race, has announced they will Executive Order 20-03, which limited non-commercial gatherings within city limits to 15 people, effective May 17th. This was soon followed by the CDC's May 14th recommendation that mask-wearing and social distancing are no longer necessary for those who are fully vaccinated. Prior to these events, in-person graduation occurred within Memorial Stadium, of which was planned in late-March and included thousands of IU students huddled together in close capacity. With these recent advancements and recommendations, it is undoubtedly assured that allowing fully vaccinated spectators into the Little 500 race is also a safe measure and should be pushed for with full vigor.
A Little 500 without fans is not only illogical based on the rescinding of COVID-19 Executive Orders and CDC recommendations, a Little 500 without fans also prevents the IU Student Foundation from satisfying its main objective: to provide working students with scholarships. Since the 1951 inception of the Little 500, the IU Student Foundation has raised over $2 million from a mixture of donations and ticket proceeds that have allowed students to remain on campus and continue their education. Without fans, no ticket revenue exists for the Foundation to provide financial assistance to deserving students, and the Foundation no longer can operate under its original intentions.
Lastly, a Little 500 without fans is quite frankly not the Little 500, but merely an ordinary bicycle race. What makes the Little 500 such a lucrative spectacle is that it is the largest attended amateur bike race in the United States. What makes the Little 500 such a defining event for riders is that they have the chance to compete in front of the largest crowd in their athletic career, many of these people being their classmates, friends, family, and professors. Finally, what makes the Little 500 such an impactful race is that it ultimately attracts and inspires the next generation of riders to participate. Many of Little 500's most prolific riders decided to race because they had attended it themselves and were enthused by the comradery, intensity, and passion displayed by the riders. This is what has kept the race alive for as long as it has.
In a time where the field currently sits 18 women's teams and 24 men's teams, Indiana University must do all it can to keep this historic race alive, and we strongly urge the University to allow vaccinated fans to attend the race on May 26. Allow students - even in a limited capacity - to experience the Little 500 for what it is, an unbelievingly captivating series of two bike races that showcases the determination, grit, and spirit that sets Indiana University apart from some of the nation's finest institutions.
President McRobbie, your legacy as leader on our campus could end on a great note by helping revive what has been lost of the Little 500 from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Make IU a school for dreamers, doers, and leaders again by allowing friends, family, students, and the riders to participate in this storied tradition.
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