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Author: Sarah Last updated: Wed 04 Nov 12:34
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How will Covid-19 affect the winter sports season?

As we all saw, the virus wreaked total havoc with the closing of many winter sports events last season.  At that time though there was some hope that things would be 'back to normal' for the start of the 2020-21 season.

Of course, these hopes were set on fire and stamped on, with many events either cancelled or relocated and there are likely to be more to come – with large crowds not even close to being possible, assuming fans are allowed entry at all.

 

What’s going to happen, moving forward?

 The main issue right now is finding ways to stage events at all, and this is in all sports from Nordic and alpine skiing to skating and sliding.

Denise Herrmann, German biathlete, has said: "You try not to think about the worst-case scenario that a whole season is cancelled. We hope that our competitions can take place as usual".

Infections of the Covid variety have spiked again in many countries as the run-up to the winter sports season draws closer, with alpine skiing being the first out of the gate at their traditional Austrian site of Soelden. With both the men’s and women’s giant slaloms being held being closed doors, ie no fans, everyone that is there has been split into four ‘bubbles’:

 

  • Athletes and coaches
  • Organisers
  • Media
  • Guests

 

The traditional big season-opening party will not be going ahead this time around, and neither will the  Kitzbuehel races.

Additionally, the North American swing before Christmas has also been put on ice, so to speak. There are doubts also about the world championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, can have the usual 5,000 attendance numbers. Right now, it is not looking too likely.

After the championships in Italy, the Nordic skiing worlds are in Germany, in Oberstdorf, which is also to host the opener of the Four Hills tournament which is planning to limit the attending crowd to 2,500 – provided the virus makes even that small number unrealistic.



 

What has been moved?

 The biathlon hasn't escaped the virus either, with the early stops having been scrapped. The first 22 races will instead be held in Finland and Austria, to reduce travel and the risk of infection.

Also being moved is sliding – the skeleton and bob, and the luge world championships, have been moved from North America to Germany. Altenberg is the new destination for skeleton/bob instead of Lake Placid and  Koenigssee will host the luge championships instead of Whistler.

Meanwhile, all major skating events have been cancelled until Christmas. These events are short track, figure and speed skating.

The ISU (International Skating Union) wants the test events for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing postponed too, although nothing is currently known about the likelihood of that happening.

Of course, this could also end up applying to other winter sports, pandemic situation depending, that could lead to a lot more changes and alterations in the run-up to the Winter Olympics.

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