Italy Cancels Olympic Swim Trials & Wave Of Other Aquatic Championships In Coronavirus Lockdown

Italy, home to Federica Pellegrini (pictured) has cancelled its Olympic Trials with no date yet proposed for a new event as the Coronavirus bites - Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

The Italian Swimming Federation (FIN) has cancelled its Olympic Trials and a host of other aquatic national championships, in open water, water polo, diving and synchronised swimming, as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency lockdown measures in Italy that were extended to the entire country today.

The news came as FINA’s leadership ponders a three-month moratorium on all its events, including Olympic test competitions and all World Series and Leagues across the spectrum of aquatic sports.

There is no alternative date as things stand nor as yet any proposal for how the Italian swimming team might be selected for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The likes of Gregorio Paltrinieri, Olympic 1500m freestyle champion, his teammate Gabriele Detti and Federica Pellegrini would be among those offered automatic berths off Italy at Tokyo 2020 should the Olympic Games proceed but for many the trials were what they had been working for.

The Italian Government today extended quarantine orders on around 16 million people living in several regions of northern Italy to the entire country, after the death toll due to the virus soared by 120 cases in just 24 hours, to 463.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in all 20 Italian regions, with the total number of infections now at 6,387. The coronavirus causes the Covid-19 disease, which in severe cases causes pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, and multiple organ failure that can lead to death.

The ‘Red Zone’ is now the whole of Italy and restricts the movement of people,  affecting all swim programs and travel plans, with severe restrictions imposed on flights in and out of the country.

Europeans well beyond Italy were warned today to expect months of disruption to their lives, while the World Health Organization (WHO) said the threat of a pandemic was “very real” and called for “aggressive measures”.

The Italian swimming federation outlines the aquatic events that have been cancelled/postponed in this statement:

Cancelled Events

“For the containment and management of the epidemiological emergency by COVID-19 , by the Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers of 8 March 2020 and by the different ordinances issued by the Regions and Municipalities, also in compliance with the aforementioned Decree; assessed the consequent impossibility of guaranteeing continuity and homogeneity in the preparation of the athletes in the national territory, the Italian Swimming Federation announces that it has ordered the suspension of the following national events:

  • National water polo championships for men and women rescheduled until further notice
  • Absolute indoor open diving championships, March 13-15,  Turin
  • Absolute indoor open swimming championships (5km/10km), March 15-16. Riccione
  • National Open Championships and Olympic Trials, March 17-21, Riccione
  • Final of the National Swimming Team Championship, Bremen Cup, March 22, Riccione
  • National Junior Swimming Championships April 3-8, Riccione
  • National Championships – synchronized swimming April 4-5, Rome

“The Italian Swimming Federation – reiterating its obsequious and scrupulous respect for government directives – will communicate shortly on how it intends to proceed with regard to the possible adjustments to the calendar of national competitions and the criteria for participation in national and international activities.”

The aquatic events are just some of many Italian sports events wiped out by the health emergency: Italian Serie A football has all been cancelled, while in rugby, France Vs Ireland today joined England’s game with Italy on the Six Nations coronavirus scrapheap. Early reports suggested the whole tournament will now be postponed until October , with reports claiming the crucial deciding matches will be postponed until October. That kind of time shift, if based on expert advice, suggested that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (see below map) may well now be looking at a postponement until later in the year, though the International Olympic Committee is so far minded to stick to a May deadline for a decision on cancellation, postponement of ‘show goes on as planned’.

The BBC runs a regularly updated map of the outbreak statistics globally as reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – here is the picture on March 9, 2020:


World Health Organisation statistics presented on a BBC map, March 9, 2020 – Photo Courtesy: BBC

tokyo2020-logoOlympic Games In The Balance

The global crisis, not just events in Japan, are now likely to affect whether the Olympic Games can be held on schedule from July 24 in Tokyo.

Japan is set this week to revise a law allowing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare a formal state of emergency over the coronavirus, if needed, as Abe faces persistent criticism for his handling of the outbreak ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Japan’s longest-serving premier has come under fire for what critics have called an initial lack of leadership, followed by abrupt steps like school closures that left parents and employers scrambling.

Japan has more than 1,000 cases of the virus including about 700 from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo last month. Fourteen people have died, including seven from the liner.

Worldwide, there are now more than 100,000 cases, including around 3,600 deaths.

Among criticisms is that Abe’s government was too slow to put curbs on visitors from China, the source of the outbreak but a country steadily bringing its crippling outbreak under control.

Commentators have also said that Japan has lacked sufficient capacity to test for the virus, while failing to mobilize what capacity it has, leading to suspicions that the virus is spreading faster than data show. Vigorous testing programs in countries like South Korea have detected higher numbers of infections that had been suspected before the wide-scale checks had begun.

The Crisis In Italy

The Coronavirus outbreak has hit Italy harder than any other European country. The BBC today calls this “Italy’s Darkest Hour”

Italy’s Government has pledged to further increase spending in a “massive shock therapy” to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak as the national emergency and lockdown delivers the most restrictive measures since World War Two, introduced yesterday, Sunday.

Up to 16 million people in northern Italy now need permission to travel under quarantine rules, while 366 deaths now confirmed, Italy is the worst-hit country in the world after China.

Tensions rose today when six people died in a prison riot in the city of Modena amid protests at the introduction of new restrictions, local media report. Prisoners set fire to a cell block after they were told that visits would be suspended, officials said. It is thought that at least two of the dead lost their lives to drug overdoses after they raided the prison hospital for the heroin substitute methadone.




    • Munster Swim Club

      Susan Wright Geist On a good note, it messes with everyone’s taper equally.

    • avatar
      Richard Zane Rogers

      I guess knowing Craig he’ll say it’s the banned suits fault

      • avatar
        Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

        I wouldn’t dream of saying any such thing. I distinctly recall tying the very last living shiny suit to a gigantic ball and chain brought to me by batman and superman before they hurled it into the ocean over the Mariana Trench as the band played
        ‘You lost that sinkin’ feelin’
        Whoa, that sinkin’ feelin’
        You lost that sinkin’ feelin’
        Now it’s gone, gone, gone, wo-oh-ho YEAH!’ 🙂

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      No 🙂 … being serious, if if they wanted to, they couldn’t …they can’t travel… third of the country in lockdown… and no into flights in or out of places like Milan and Venice…

    • Jamie Johnson Hampton

      You have zero clue how many hours these athletes dedicate. Pretty insensitive comment.

    • David Moreno

      Jamie Johnson Hampton as a former division one swimmer and national level swimmer….I have more then a clue. LIFE IS MORE THAN SPORTS.

      • avatar
        Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

        Jamie and Luis – keep it civil, please – really no need for the kind of exchange I’ve trashed, the trash being where it belongs. Be nice to each other. Thanks, Danke and Grazie!

    • Luis Moreno

      Jamie Johnson Hampton

      Jamie Johnson Hampton As a former professional water polo player that played in a Italy in A1 & A2 Division, you know NOT of what you speak. It’s better safe than sorry. My Italian Coach once said, if you even think you’re getting sick, I better not see you at practice possibly getting others sick & hurting our chances for the next game.

  1. Donna Pearce Price

    They should do it (trials) closer to the olympics like we do!

    • Peter Scott

      In this case I doubt it will matter….the Olympics are more than likely to be postponed as well. With various countries now showing increased signs of infection it would be foolhardy if the Olympics were to proceed in the current climate of increased infections world wide.

    • Paolo Magnanelli

      Susan Steeper Magnanelli Italy is closed! From tomorrow morning nobody can leave the city where he lives for coronavirus ??

    • Susan Steeper Magnanelli

      Paolo Magnanelli ? I love swimming as both my children were competitive swimmers. Italy has some great swimmers. I feel bad for those trying to make the Olympics for the first time.

    • Paolo Magnanelli

      Susan Steeper Magnanelli All sports activities are suspended, cinemas, theaters and museums closed

    • Paolo Magnanelli

      Susan Steeper Magnanelli We are all right thanks. Italy has 60,000,000 inhabitants and 3,000 infected with coronaviruses. Contagion is on the rise

  2. Rebecca Kalibat

    Can the athletes compete at a neighboring country’s Trials??
    Switzerland, Germany?

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      No Rebecca, they’re not allowed to travel. At least not for now. The emergency restrictions have been expended to the whole country.

    • Jack Thomas

      Morgen Hawkins It’s started

    • Morgen Hawkins

      Jack Thomas just waiting for aus trials now wowee

  3. Carole Anne

    Cancel??? Postponing is off the table????

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      ‘Cancelled’ because under the Italian Government restriction that is the severity of the instruction. That doesn’t mean that events cannot be staged at a later date depending on what happens next. Given that they don’t know what’s going to happen – when the virus will peak, how long it will take before the emergency can be lifted, then they have to cancel. They can’t hold trials after end June – too late… all Italian restaurants, bars, evening entertainment, football and all sports events have been stopped … they need to put out a wildfire… In Calabria in the south there are just 140-plus intensive care hospital places … if what happened in northern region happens elsewhere in Italy, the consequence could be devastating. Hence, sport, the Olympics, must take its place in the priorities of life.

  4. Ness Mc

    I feel for the families that are affected by the virus and you should be grateful for what you have, not worrying about a competition very selfish☹️

  5. Lynn Doerr Sharkey

    Sucks for the athletes who will never get this one opportunity ever again