On Thursday, June 18, FIS released their official event protocol for the 2020-21 season. In wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19), World Cup organizers must take into account the potential of hosting events under specific restrictions in order to keep athletes, team staff, event organizers, and the media safe and healthy.

The FIS COVID-19 Prevention Guidelines for Event Organizers provides advice based on information from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Medical Department and is designed to assist local organizing committees with setting up systems prior to events that will ensure the care and welfare of all participants.

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All in all, the new protocol and guidelines mean that interactions between athletes, teams, coaches, event organizers, and the media will look quite different in the 2020-21 season.

In preparation, LOC’s must conduct a risk assessment test in order to assess the overall risk of disease spread, as World Cups and World Championship events are considered mass gatherings under WHO definitions. Once a risk assessment score is established, LOC’s must then put particular provisions into place in order to mitigate the potential disease spread based on their risk score. Provisions must be conscious of the ‘key pillars’ of safety that include handwashing, respiratory hygiene, distancing responsibility, daily health self-assessment, availability of contact details for rapid contact tracing, and reporting policy in the case of falling ill.

For example, athletes, LOC, FIS, and team officials will have separate lift access to the venue. In the mixed zone, media interaction will be limited and distancing measures (such as using a “selfie-stick” microphone to respect distance) will be required. Athletes will be asked to leave the common area of the finish as soon as possible. If spectators are allowed, grandstands with adequate distances between seats should be planned, meaning ticketing for events will be limited.

New COVID-19 guidelines are thorough and extensive, but also subject to change. As winter approaches, and the status of the coronavirus shifts globally, FIS is aware they will have to adjust protocols as global health organizations and local governments learn more about the coronavirus and the mitigation of its spread.

“These are likely to evolve and some may be relaxed towards the winter competition season as a result of positive steps in managing Covid-19 and the experience of other sporting events during the summer and autumn periods,” FIS wrote in their guidelines.

In order to accommodate changes, LOC’s are required to include local health authorities to support their work in establishing these measures and to stay updated in terms of the latest virus developments and local regulations. FIS plans to communicate updates and changes in their newly formed, FIS Information Hub COVID-19. The FIS Medical Committee C-19 Support Group has also been created to directly deal with those on the ground that could potentially be affected by the virus while on the road with the World Cup Tour.

As of June, there are still no confirmed changes to the World Cup schedule. In early May, Ski Racing Media reported that the FIS is considering several contingency plans, including one that would keep the alpine World Cup in Europe for the entire 2020-21 season. It is still unclear as to whether North America will be able to host its scheduled World Cup events in Killington, Beaver Creek, and Lake Louise. Decisions regarding the postponement of World Championships in Cortina will be made by July 1, 2020.

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