European Aquatics Championships Postponed Until August As LEN & Buda Curse The Pest

Katinka Hosszu of Hungary competes in the women's 400m Individual Medley (IM) Heats during the Swimming competition held at the Duna Arena during the 17th FINA World Championships 2017 in Budapest, Hungary, 30 July 2017.
Katinka Hosszu, whose home Duna Arena Pool in Budapest may yet hosts a 2020 European Championships - Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer ©

The European Aquatics Championships, the continental showcase event for swimming scheduled for May 11-24 in Budapest, Hungary, has been postponed.

The news on a shift to tentative dates in August for the continental swimming showcase was announced by the European Swimming League (LEN) and Budapest organisers and confirms what sources told Swimming World yesterday as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to take a toll, global infections passing the quarter of a million mark, deaths now topping 10,000, Italy now counting more graves than China, where the outbreak of the virus began back in mid-November last year.

The multi-sports championship has been shifted to a “tentative” schedule of August 17-30, two weeks beyond what would be the end of the Olympics in Tokyo if the Games go on. The European Masters Championships, which would have followed the elite event in May, have also been postponed, no new dates set as yet. 

In a message that may ring loud in the ears of Olympic bosses yet to decide the fate of the Tokyo 2020 Games in July, Dr Tunde Szabo, Minister of Sports in Hungary – former Olympic silver medallist swimmer,  said:

 “We all wish to see packed stands in the Duna Arena. The magical atmosphere created by the fans has become a trademark of the aquatic events in Budapest – the participating athletes deserve to enjoy that once again. And of course they also deserve the chance to have quality preparations before the big events since nowadays it’s almost impossible to train properly. Indeed,  few have been hit as hard as the competitors in aquatics where pool-preparations would be a must.”

The August timeframe will be reassessed in late May.  Paolo Barelli, the president of LEN, said:

” …at this stage it’s difficult if not impossible to plan with a definite time frame so we agreed with the Hungarian organisers to reassess the situation in late May or early June to see if we can confirm these dates as official ones.”

THE LEN STATEMENT IN FULL

The circumstances linked to the outbreak of the coronavirus throughout the continent, the travel restrictions and the other measures currently implemented by most European governments forced the LEN Bureau to decide on the postponement of the 2020 European Aquatics Championships, the elective LEN Congress and the European Masters Championships. Each event was due to be held in Budapest in May. The proposed new dates are in August though this might be confirmed only in late May or in early June.

LEN President Paolo Barelli agreed with the proposal of the Organising Committee of the European Aquatics Championships in Budapest to move the event to a later date from 11-24 May, in wake of the current circumstances. The LEN Bureau took the decision to postpone the Championships, as well as the elective LEN Congress and the European Masters Championships.

“After consulting with our stakeholders, we’ve set a tentative date for the championships, 17-30 August” President Barelli said. “However, at this stage it’s difficult if not impossible to plan with a definite time frame so we agreed with the Hungarian organisers to reassess the situation in late May or early June to see if we can confirm these dates as official ones.”

Mr Barelli added that in case things would not get back to normal in the coming months, LEN should consider staging the championships in 2021. “Our common commitment and priority is to protect the health of the athletes and give them the best possible conditions to compete in a safe environment and, at the same time, celebrate a great Aquatic event, something Hungary has always delivered with excellence” he said.

Dr Tunde Szabo, Minister of Sports in Hungary – former Olympic silver medallist swimmer – emphasised that the event could go ahead once everything is settled on the Old Continent. She said:

“The European Championships have always been an outstanding meet, a true highlight of any season. We are committed to stage another great edition in Budapest, which is the birthplace of the European Championships. Ever since the first edition in 1926, each LEN event in Hungary was a tremendous success and we don’t expect any less this time – so we are patient and waiting for the appropriate time to host the championships.”

The minister added that the Europeans should be an event where spectators were present.

“We all wish to see packed stands in the Duna Arena. The magical atmosphere created by the fans has become a trademark of the aquatic events in Budapest – the participating athletes deserve to enjoy that once again. And of course they also deserve the chance to have quality preparations before the big events since nowadays it’s almost impossible to train properly. Indeed, few have been hit as hard as the competitors in aquatics where pool-preparations would be a must” Ms Szabo said.

The elective LEN Congress and the European Masters Championships are planned to be held alongside the main championships, the dates for those events are also to be confirmed later.

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