AT A GLANCE / APRIL 2020

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

World Athletics launches fund to support professional athletes facing hardship due to pandemic

World Athletics and the International Athletics Foundation (IAF) have together launched a US$500,000 fund to support professional athletes experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sebastian Coe, president, World Athletics, has said that the fund will be used to assist athletes who have lost most of their income in the last few months due to the suspension of international competitions. It may be recalled that several international sports meets were postponed or cancelled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coe will chair an expert multi-regional working group to assess the applications for assistance, which will be submitted through World Athletics’ six Area Associations. The members will include: Olympic champion and 1500m world record-holder Hicham El Guerrouj, Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi (representing the WA Athletes’ Commission), WA Executive Board members Sunil Sabharwal (Audit Committee) and Abby Hoffman, WA Council members Adille Sumariwalla, Beatrice Ayikoru and Willie Banks, IAF Executive Committee member and former WA treasurer Jose Maria Odriozola and Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines President Keith Joseph, a statement dated April 28, 2020, available on the website of World Athletics said.

The working group will meet soon to establish a process for awarding and distributing grants to individual athletes and to look at other ways to raise additional monies for the fund. Established in 1986 to support charitable causes involving athletics, the International Athletics Foundation (IAF), under the Honorary Presidency of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, has allocated resources from its budgets for 2020 and 2021 to assist athletes in need through this process. Coe also chairs the IAF, the statement said.

2020 IAU 24H Asia and Oceania Championships postponed

The 2020 IAU 24H Asia and Oceania Championships, which was to be held in Bengaluru in July, have been postponed.

“ Due to the current Coronavirus (Covid-19) situation in India (lock down) and globally, we have taken the decision with the LOC at this time to postpone the 2020 IAU 24 Hours Asia and Oceania Championships to a later date. We are working with the LOC to come up with an appropriate date later this year,’’ an official statement dated April 12, 2020, available on the website of International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU), said.

LOC stands for Local Organizing Committee.

No Berlin Marathon in September

The 2020 Berlin Marathon will not take place in September as earlier scheduled.

An official statement dated April 21, 2020, available on the event website said, “ We have learned from the press conference of the Berlin Senate on April 21, 2020, that according to the Containment Ordinance, all events with more than 5,000 persons will be prohibited until October 24, 2020. This applies to many of our events, but especially to the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON, which cannot take place on September 26 and 27, 2020, as planned.

“ We will now deal with the consequences of the official prohibition of our events, coordinate the further steps and inform you as soon as we can.’’

Comrades Marathon postponed

The 2020 edition of South Africa’s annual Comrades Marathon has been postponed.

This follows government measures to fight the spread of COVID-19.    Although called a marathon, with over 25,000 participants and a course length of 87-90 kilometers, Comrades is actually the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon. A new date for 2020 Comrades has not been announced yet.

A statement dated April 17, 2020, available on the website of Athletics South Africa (ASA), said, “ Following the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 9 April to extend the lockdown of the country by 14 days in order to slow down and manage the extent of the Corona Virus (COVID-19), ASA has taken heed of the latest pronouncement and has aligned accordingly.’’ It quoted ASA president, Aleck Skhosana as saying, “ in compliance, the suspension of all athletics activities is therefore also extended. ‘’

The suspension of activities will remain in place until is it deemed safe to resume by the national government. “ The Comrades Marathon is therefore postponed from 14 June to a suitable date that will be determined between ASA, KZN Athletics and the Comrades Marathon Association as soon as conditions around the management of the virus allow us to, under the guidance of the government,” the statement said.

It quoted the chairperson of the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA), Cheryl Winn, as saying, “ we welcome the announcement by ASA, which includes the postponement of the 2020 Comrades which had been scheduled for 14 June.’’

Tour de France postponed

The 2020 edition of Tour de France has been postponed.

Originally scheduled over June 29-July 19, it will now take place from August 29-September 20.

The decision follows France’s recent decision to not permit large scale events in the country following the spread of COVID-19.

A statement dated April 15, 2020, available on the event’s website, said, “ following the President’s address on Monday evening, where large-scale events were banned in France until mid-July as a part of the fight against the spread of COVID-19, the organisers of the Tour de France, in agreement with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), have decided to postpone the Tour de France to Saturday 29th August to Sunday 20th September 2020. Initially scheduled to take place from the 27th June to the 19th July, the Tour de France will follow the same route, with no changes, from Nice to Paris.’’

It added, “ the women’s event, La Course by le Tour de France avec FDJ, which was initially scheduled to take place on 19th July on the Champs Elysées, will also be postponed to a date that is still to be determined, but it will take place during the Tour de France 2020. Equally, the 30th edition of the Etape du Tour cyclosportive, originally schedule to take place on the 5th July, will be postponed to a date yet to be determined.’’

2020 IAU 100 km World Championship cancelled

The 2020 IAU 100 km World Championship scheduled to be held on September 12 at Winschoten in the Netherlands, has been cancelled.

This follows the spread of COVID-19 across the world.

“ The current international situation would have seriously compromised the championships as many countries are now restricting international travel, invoking quarantines and advising citizens to remain indoors to prevent infection.  Even if the situation eases before September, any capability for international participation would be considerably reduced. First and foremost we had to consider the health and well-being of our athletes, officials and spectators in making this decision,’’ the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) said in a statement dated April 4, 2020, available on their website.

The 2020 IAU Congress has also been cancelled. “ We will work with the IAU Council on the future date of the Congress and elections,’’ the statement added.

2020 TCS World 10K rescheduled to September

A new date has been announced for the 2020 TCS World 10K.

The annual event in Bengaluru, originally scheduled for May 17 and then marked for rescheduling due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, is now expected to be held on September 13. This is as per an official statement dated April 3, 2020, available on the event website.

“ We shall overcome this unprecedented situation and God willing the event will take place on 13th September 2020,’’ Vivek Singh, Joint-MD of event organizer, Procam International, was quoted as saying in the statement. Hugh Jones, Race Director, has said, “ Postponing the TCSW10K Bengaluru was bowing to the inevitable. It is just not possible to stage a race in currently prevailing conditions. Pushing the race date four months forward allows plans to be made with confidence for a race that is likely to be more competitive than ever.’’

Details on registration and surrendering registration already made are available on the event website.

2020 Race Across America (RAAM) and Race Aross West (RAW) cancelled

The 2020 edition of Race Across America (RAAM), one of the toughest endurance races in cycling, has been cancelled owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The race entails riding across the US, from its west coast to the east. The annual event also includes Race Across West (RAW), a race straddling a shorter length of the course.

In an email communique to participants on April 3, 2020, the organizers of RAAM informed, “ our decision to cancel the 2020 Races is consistent with the decisions made by other event sponsors and sports organizations around the world.  As COVID-19 rapidly spread around the globe in recent months, tournaments, games and other sporting events have been substantially modified, postponed or canceled. The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games to 2021 was an eye opener for every event organizer. More recently, the decisions by both Ironman and the UCI reinforced our decision.’’

It added, “ as the COVID-19 virus spread it became clear the coronavirus pandemic would make planning exceptionally difficult for race owners/directors. The COVID-19 virus became the overriding consideration in race planning. Two important facts were required to properly plan for and hold the Races: 1) how long would the pandemic last; and 2) can the race be put on safely for everyone involved. We soon realized it would be inappropriate to be considering a bicycle race when the entire world was dealing with such a serious public health crisis. ’’

The organizers pointed out that given RAAM goes through 12 states and 350 communities, there are several restrictive measures – ranging from limits on social interaction to steps designed to check overloading health care infrastructure to stay-at-home directives – issued by local, state and federal governments to be considered. The lock down orders in both California and Maryland, as they stand, prohibit the running of the race. The decision to cancel RAAM’s 2020 edition was based on all these factors.

“ RAAM has offered racers the option of a one-year rollover for at least the past decade. We are now modifying this policy to allow racers to rollover their registration to either the 2021 Race or the 2022 Race. Also, there will be no increase in registration fees for those rolling over to 2021 or 2022,’’ the email said.

Qualification period for Tokyo Olympics suspended from April 6 to November 30

The qualification period for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games (shifted to 2021) has been suspended from April 6, 2020 to November 30, 2020.

“ During this period, results achieved at any competition will not be considered for Tokyo 2020 entry standards or world rankings, the publication of which will also be suspended. Results will continue to be recorded for statistical purposes, including for world records, subject to the applicable conditions. But they will not be used to establish an athlete’s qualification status,’’ a press release dated April 7, 2020 available on the website of World Athletics said.

According to it, subject to the global situation returning to normal, the qualification period will resume on 1 December 2020 and continue to the new qualification deadline in 2021 set by the International Olympic Committee. The total qualification period, which started in 2019, will be four months longer than it was originally.

“ Athletes who have already met the entry standard since the start of the qualification period in 2019 remain qualified and will be eligible for selection by their respective Member Federations and National Olympic Committees, together with the other athletes who will qualify within the extended qualification period. The end of the Olympic qualification periods are 31 May 2021 (for 50km race walk and marathon) and 29 June 2021 for all other events,’’ the press release said.

New dates announced for World Athletics Championships

The World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA, have been rescheduled to 15-24 July in 2022.

This follows the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“ The Oregon World Championships were originally scheduled for 6-15 August, 2021, but have been rescheduled to the following year to avoid a clash with the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The World Athletics Council approved the new dates this week after extensive discussions with the sport’s stakeholders including organisers of two other major championships due to take place in July-August 2022, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and the multisport European Championships in Munich. The new schedule will prevent a direct conflict between any of these major events and, with careful programming, will ensure athletes can compete in up to three world-class competitions,’’ an official statement dated April 8, 2020, available on the website of World Athletics, said.

(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)

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