'As safe as it gets' - How world bowls is being staged in Norfolk behind closed doors

World Indoor Bowls at Potters

The Just 2021 World Indoor Bowls Championship is set go ahead from January 8, but behind closed doors. - Credit: James Bass Photography

Last year at the World Indoor Bowls Championship staged at Potters Resort in Hopton a shot was played that was so spectacular it stirred a mesmerised crowd to give a raucous ovation.

In 2021 the same inch-perfect ball would probably be met with the indifferent silence of an empty room.

Potter's Resort has confirmed the international competition will go ahead in January.

Normally some 20,000 spectators attend the event at the home of bowls, but it will all be played out behind closed doors.

Managing director John Potter said the portable rink was being laid with hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of mechanical ventilation systems turning the air.

World Indoor Bowls at Potters

Crowds at a previous men's final at Potter's Resort. In 2021 the stands will be empty due to the coronavirus pandemic. - Credit: Jamie Honeywood

He said: "All things being equal it is happening behind closed doors, but people can watch live online across social channels and live streamed on YouTube and, of course, live on the BBC for the final week.

"The amazing Christmas decorations we did all over Potter's Resort this year are sadly going unappreciated and the last ones are coming down today (Tuesday, December 29).

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"In their place the portable rink is going down in the international arena and TV sets for the biggest and best bowls tournament in the world are being built now.

"It's as safe as it gets with just the two or four players in a seriously big room, often 20 or even 40 metres apart with hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of mechanical ventilations systems turning the air - and not too much excessive heavy breathing."

Bringing the tournament to Norfolk was the brainchild of Potters Resort's chairman and tourism innovator Brian Potter, who passed away in November 2014.

In 1997 work started on a six-rink international standard stadium – a total investment of £2.5m and the stadium officially opened in 1998 when Potters hosted the national England Ladies' Championships.

The event was an enormous success and when the World Bowls Council saw the facility in action they moved the championships to Hopton the following year.

The 17-day Just 2021 Indoor Bowls Championship gets underway on January 8.

For the full  match schedule visit the resort's website.