European Swimming Championships ‘On Verge Of Coronavirus Postponement’

duna_arena_jun17-fina, fina world championships
The Duna Arena in Budapest, venue for the 2020 European Squatics Championships - Photo Courtesy: Budapest 2017 World Championship Organising Committee

The European Swimming Championships and the continental showcase event for all aquatics sports scheduled for May 11-24 in Budapest, Hungary, is on the verge of being postponed, a senior source has told Swimming World as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to take a toll.

Confirmation of the decision could come as early as the weekend, said the source, while the European Masters, due to be staged in the same Duna Arena Pool in which the 2017 World Championships from May 24 to June 7, is likely to be called off too, said a coach who has been told “to make new plans”.

Speculation mounted today when Paolo Barelli, President of the European Swimming League (LEN) and the Italian Swimming Federation (FIN),  told home media that it was “ridiculous to keep speaking of staging the Olympics in Tokyo in July” in a broadside at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 Organisers still issuing statements of confidence in a July 24 start for the Games despite the desertification of the sporting calendar, among postponements the Euro 2020 football tournament that has now become Euro 2021.

Barelli was speaking in the worst-hit country on the continent: today, Italy even overtook China as the country with most coronavirus-related deaths, registering 3,405 dead, a rise of 427 on the day before, which was a rise of 475 n the day before that, which marked a record single-day death tool due to coronavirus anywhere in the world.

Hungary, the hosts of the European event, remains keen to host “whenever that may be possible”, the source told Swimming World.

The European Swimming Championships has suffered only one cancellation since the inaugural event in 1926, one that did not include all the aquatics disciplines that make up the modern showcase: the 1942 event was a non-starter as Hitler’s Nazi armies delivered death and destruction to Europe in the Second World War.

The cause of cancellation in 2020 has also been described as a war, waged by an invisible enemy called coronavirus COVID-19.

tokyo2020-logoA source close to the European body told Swimming World: “We’re on the verge of seeing another big event taken down by the virus. It looks almost certain that the Championships cannot proceed on the planned dates, though Budapest is working hard to find alternatives, whenever that may be possible. Look, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) is talking about staging the Olympic Games in July. That just doesn’t seem reasonable to almost anyone you meet in Europe now.

“Our continent is burning with coronavirus infections and bodies are piling up. If Tokyo looks very unlikely, then bringing many thousands together for a multi-sports event in Budapest less than two months away … well, you know what I mean.”

A spokesman for LEN declined to comment on speculation but noted that important discussions were still being held.

That Barelli is Italian will count much towards the decision about to be taken.

In total, the Italian infection rate rose by 41,035 from a previous 35,713, up 14.9% on the day, the Italian Civil Protection Agency reported.

Around 3,245 people have been reported to have died in China since the virus first emerged there in mid-November last year but was not acknowledged until more than a month later. Italy suffered its first known case on February 21. Since then, the rapid spread of the coronavirus sparked the biggest lockdown of a country in Europe since controls imposed during the Second World War.

Hungary, down to host the World Championships in May, closed its borders last week and is also operating under containment rules enforced to attempt to stop the spread of a virus spreading at the very least six months before a vaccine is likely to be ready for use among the general population.

In Bergamo, a province of 1.2 million people in the Lombardy region, 4,305 people had contracted the virus by Wednesday in an area accounting for more than half of all coronavirus  deaths in the country.

The army has been brought in to move 65 coffins from the cemetery in Bergamo town and take them to Modena and Bologna in Emilia-Romagna because local funeral operators and cemeteries are overwhelmed. Antonio Ricciardi, the president of CFB, Bergamo’s largest funeral director, confirmed to media that the company had carried out almost 600 burials or cremations in the two weeks since the start of March.

He summed up the emotional toll the pandemic is having alongside the death toll when he told The Guardian newspaper in Britain:

“In a normal month we would do about 120 (funerals). A generation has died in just over two weeks. We’ve never seen anything like this and it just makes you cry.”

There are about 80 funeral companies across Bergamo, each receiving dozens of calls an hour, a shortage of coffins and infections among fennel workers contributing to a backlog of bodies, according to The Guardian in harrowing report today.


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Parkan Behayeddin
4 years ago

Mia Burns-Walsh

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