Covid-19 Emergency Threatens Postponement of Champions League Final Eight Water Polo Tournament

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Punta Sant'Anna Pool in Recco. Photo Courtesy: Pro Recco

Europe’s Covid-19 emergency threatens to force the relocation or even the cancellation of LEN’s Champions League Final Eight tournament in what would be another blow to professional water polo on the continent.

LEN-champ-logoOriginally scheduled in to be hosted in Punta Sant’Anna, the legendary outdoor aquatics facility in Recco, Italy, Francesco Grillone reports that Pro Recco—the Italian Series A1 club planning to host the event—has informed LEN of delays that will make it unlikely for the facility to be ready in time. Grillone said that as a result of government rules intended to contain the coronavirus, it is impossible to ensure the protection of workers’ health.

Construction, which was to add three additional covered grandstands to accommodate attendance at Europe’s most prestigious professional polo tournament, is now interrupted, with no deadline for completion.

Italy has been ravaged by COVID-19, which has infected almost 28,00o Italians and killed more than 2,400—by far the highest total outside of China. The situation has resulted in cancellation of all professional competition in Europe and—along with a three-month moratorium by FINA on international competition—has brought the sport to a standstill.

[FINA Leaders Ponder A Three-Month Coronavirus Moratorium That Would Wipe Out All Olympic Test Events]

According to Grillone, dates set almost a year ago for the Final Eight cannot be changed due to prior commitments in the Punta Sant’Anna area. Pro Recco was responsible for hosting all the competing teams as well as LEN’s delegation, securing hundreds of hotel rooms, arranging for ticket sales and coordinating a massive sporting event—what is currently prohibited in Italy due to the country’s medical emergency.

“It’s impossible to plan an event in the heart of the Coronavirus emergency that, if confirmed, would bring eight teams from all over Europe and thousands of people including fans, professionals and journalists,” Grillone wrote.

Punta Sant'Anna

Construction at Punta Sant’Anna. Photo Courtesy: Pro Recco

Maurizio Felugo, Pro Recco’s president, felt that this distraction was not in the best interest of his club or his country.

“There are people who died, are hospitalized or infected,” said Felugo, “Fortunately, thanks to the splendid work of doctors and nurses, many [have] recovered.

“These are the only numbers that interest us, [ones] that deserve every effort and attention, as much as everyone [can spare].”

The construction delays come on top of the suspension of  Champions League play until at least April 15, which will make it difficult for Pro Recco, coached by Ratko Rudic, to squeeze in the final four games of group play as well as a match against Ferencvaros of Hungary that was postponed from March 3.

Further complicating matters, FINA moved the men’s pre-Olympic qualifying tournament—initially set for the end of March—to the first week in June, the same period as the Final Eight is scheduled for.

With reporting from

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