BEIJING, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Almost five months without basketball, it's time for China's league to return to fans' life.
The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) announced on Thursday that the league would resume on June 20.
CBA has become the first professional league in China to resume its operations.
It was suspended before the Spring Festival in January with 30 rounds of action played but had to face an indefinite suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The anxiety is over now, basketball fans have reasons to feel relieved that games will be back in two-week's time.
But for the CBA president and Chinese basketball icon Yao Ming, it's never easy to say "relieved" about the restart.
"It's just the beginning. We have met much uncertainty this year, which is beyond the boundary of our knowledge. We have to take everything into consideration," he admitted.
To best prevent the spread of the COVID-19, matches will be played behind closed doors in a championship format after the resumption.
Qingdao, in east China's Shandong province, and Dongguan, in the southern province of Guangdong, have been selected as the hosts for the remainder of the league.
The CBA has witnessed a boom in television views and ticket box receipts in its 25th year, also the first season since the inauguration of the league's upgrading project, which aims at offering a better fan experience by improving operations, brand development and promotions.
More importantly, fierce on-court competition has given fans reasons to swarm into venues or watch the games on television.
However, the boom was halted by the COVID-19 breakout. Everyone has to stay home, leaving no chance of hosting basketball games in an environment of gathering.
Several foreign players chose to part ways with their teams. Another big challenge came from rescheduling as China's national team had to play the Olympic qualifiers originally slated in June.
A different scenario loomed when the Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed to 2021 in March. On the other hand, COVID-19 has gradually been under control in China, the prospect of resumption came to life.
With no matches, the CBA has suffered losses of its revenue. The league office's top and middle earning staff voluntarily took a pay cut in April. The company also called on the whole CBA family to work together to deal with the economic impact on the organization and clubs.
But the league's brand value was still recognized. Before the CBA executives' pay cut, China Mobile became an official partner of CBA through a five-year contract starting from the 2020-21 season.
The sign of CBA's comeback became clearer when Yao revealed that three plans were in place for CBA's resumption in an interview with China Central Television in May.
China's General Administration of Sport issued a guideline of orderly resumption of sports events on May 29, clarifying that the China Super League, CBA and other events should independently formulate event recovery work plans, which should be implemented after review and evaluation.
CBA emphasized that after the resumption, everyone needs to abide by protocols of prevention and control to ensure the league will be operated in a safe and orderly way.
"People have been familiar with some details of anti-virus measures as where we have to wear masks or measure body temperatures. We hope that all these can be traceable and replicable. We hope the experience and method can be applied to other competitions under the organization," Yao said.
Players indeed felt thrilled to get back on track.
"Yesssssssssss!!!!!!!" Beijing Ducks guard Jeremy Lin responded to the news on Sina Weibo, Twitter's equivalent in China.
"Good news. Finally it's time to restart. Back to work," the Guangdong Southeast Tigers player Zhou Peng wrote.
The league made some adjustments to rules of using foreign players as part of them cannot be back to China in time due to the pandemic situation.
Despite challenges ahead, CBA has made a big step towards normality.
"Many people have done lots of work to make this happen. We have to stay down to earth," Yao noted.