DEMAND EFFECTIVE COVID PROTOCOLS FROM ISU FOR 2021 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS #STOCKHOLM2021
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The International Skating Union plans to hold 2021 World Figure Skating in Stockholm, Sweden from March 22–28, 2021. ISU have declared that they will be holding this in a “bubble” due to COVID-19.
However, this “bubble” is not a real bubble. ISU indicate:
"all skaters and their team members are tested before they travel to Sweden and again on arrival"
"competitors and their team do not meet anyone outside the bubble during and after the Championships"
There is no quarantine period after arrival. Skaters and teams will be traveling on commercial airlines through commercial airports. Staff and volunteers have also only been asked to follow the same testing and procedures as athletes and teams, with no quarantine.
According to the CDC, symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. The potential for someone getting infected while traveling via planes, airports, trains, cabs, or buses is predictable and risky. Additionally, it is crucial to emphasize that being tested twice (once before traveling internationally) is not enough since test results when pre-symptomatic often show false negative.
We know these are woefully inadequate measures. In January 2021, a conference was held in Los Angeles with a similar bubble (but a little better because they implemented daily testing) and 21 people in that bubble got infected.
ISU have also made it very clear in their communications that anybody who wishes to arrive early - ie, quarantine adequately - will have to pay for all expenses themselves:
“All expenses for accommodation and meals for all Competitors participating in the Championships will be covered by the Organizing Committee during the period beginning with dinner on Saturday, March 21, 2021, and ending with lunch on Monday, March 29, 2021.”... “Should any Competitor, Team Leader or Official arrive at the Hotel before the time indicated above, the costs for accommodation and meals are at the burden of the user.”
ISU also require all attendees to sign a waiver declaring that ISU will not be held liable for any COVID-related damages. Also to be noted: anybody who experiences symptoms in the bubble is required to self-report to the designated team leader. There is no monitoring other than temperature checks.
Conventionally, the only way for countries to earn multiple Olympic spots is through placement at World Championships. (One spot can be earned through Nebelhorn Trophy.) ISU have refused to announce an alternate path to qualification. We consider this a way of coercing skaters to participate and a way to ensure no country’s skating federation withdraws from Worlds 2021.
Some athletes, current and retired, have discussed their concerns over the safety risk of exposure to COVID-19. Some, including Olympic medalists, have decided to WD, but not all can do so because Olympic spots hang in the balance (which is why we name and link to no current competitors here).
According to ISU, "the health and safety for all visitors, skaters, judges, ISU officials, media, volunteers and everyone else who will attend the event is our highest PRIORITY." Therefore:
- Skaters, staff, teams, and volunteers must quarantine for at least fourteen days after arriving, before entering the bubble. The quarantine should adhere to the highest standards and recommendations of the CDC. After quarantine, skaters must be given ice time to regain conditioning before competing at such a high level. All involved must be tested daily throughout the event. ISU must arrange and pay for this.
- ISU must provide an alternate way to get Olympic spots so skaters can withdraw with fewer consequences.
If those two conditions cannot be met, then ISU must:
Postpone the event until after all involved (skaters, teams, staff, volunteers) are vaccinated
Cancel the event.
Finally, ISU must hear our claims and truly prioritize everybody’s (athletes, teams, staff, volunteers) safety and health. We saw ISU not sanction Russian Skating Federation for the multiple competitions they have held with lax COVID regulations (like an athlete competing with a fever and with the aid of smelling salts). We saw the US Nationals proceed with skaters from a team whose coach and teammate tested positive less than two weeks before the event. We saw skaters huddle together for photos, without masks, at 2020 NHK Trophy and the Japanese National Championships. Grand Prix event IdF was cancelled with only a week to go. Worlds 2020 in Montreal was only cancelled when local authorities stepped in, and not at ISU’s own initiative.
We have already seen at least one skater retire due to COVID. We have seen multiple others - including multiple Euros medalists - speak publicly about long-term lung damage they have sustained, and have withdrawn from events/competed while not completely recovered due to it. None of this inspires faith in ISU, their intentions, or their abilities.
This is unacceptable from the governing body that is supposed to be in charge of their safety and well-being.
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