Recurring virus outbreaks make events unpredictable: USOPC


(Reuters) – The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) warned on Wednesday that recurrent outbreaks of COVID-19 will make staging events more unpredictable while athletes will have to meet rigorous medical standards before returning to training.

Even as states ease stay-at-home restrictions and open up sectors of the economy, USOPC warned strict hygiene and social-distancing rules will remain in place as world sport plots its return.

“There is no way to eliminate the risk to returning to sport entirely so it is important to develop your return to training in that context and your event planning in that context,” USOPC chief medical officer Jonathan Finnoff said during a conference call.

USOPC warned that it is likely events will frequently need to be cancelled due to continuing outbreaks of the novel coronavirus which has shut down most sport around the world and forced a one-year postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“One should consider if the financial impact of an event cancellation close to the time of the event will have a significant negative financial impact on the event organizer, associated organizations, athletes, or spectators,” USOPC said.

Anyone staging an event such as an Olympic trials should investigate mitigating risk through event insurance said the USOPC, particularly for things such as catering and guaranteed hotel blocks.

Event organisers should also plan for separate rooms for all athletes, coaches, staff and media.

Like U.S. cities and states preparing to open up, USOPC outlined a similar plan by which athletes would return to training in phases.

The long list of precautions is further complicated by each state being in different stages of easing restrictions and opening facilities.

Athletes could also face multiple testing but Finnoff emphasized they will not receive priority over the needs of the general public.

“No test should be used on an athlete until public demand for testing on people who are systematic and need it for medical purposes,” Finnoff said.

“We should just not test athletes until we are handling the medical demand for those tests.”

Some guidelines are common sense and already in place but in a 13-page document USOPC laid out a detailed plan that includes living in a training location for 14 days prior to beginning group training.

Different sports will face a higher level scrutiny with low- risk ones such as archery, where social distancing is not an issue, compared to wrestling during which athletes are in constant contact.

“It is important when you are developing your return to training plan, or planning your event that work in close conjunction with public health officials in your area.” said Finnoff.

“Number one, you follow their recommendations and you implement the appropriate prevention measures based on the risk in your area.”

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond

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