(30-Jul) -- Organizers of next year's World Athletics Cross Country Championships, scheduled for March 20, in Bathurst, Australia in New South Wales, are recommending that these championships be postponed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The board of the local organizing committee has made the recommendation to the World Athletics Council as "a result of biosecurity measures and travel restrictions currently in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Australia," according to an official statement released today. Australian borders are currently closed to foreign visitors to prevent the spread of the virus.
PHOTO: Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda leading the 2019 World Athletics Cross Country Championships ahead of teammate Jacob Kiplimo, Kenya's Geoffrey Kamworor, and Eritrea's Aron Kifle (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
"Whilst extremely disappointed to be making this recommendation, Athletics Australia and the LOC remain committed to the delivery of an outstanding World Championship event, once we are confident that the best international cross country athletes can make their way to New South Wales and interstate travel is not restricted," said Mark Arbib, president of Athletics Australia through a statement.
World Athletics officials acknowledged the request from the Australian organizers and understood their concerns.
"World Athletics will work closely with all stakeholders in Australia to explore the feasibility of other dates," officials said through a media release. "At this time the event remains in the calendar for 20 March 2021."
The 2019 World Athletics Cross Country Championships, held in Aarhus, Denmark, were hugely successful and widely seen as injecting new life into the championships. Those championships were held on the grounds of the Mosegaard Museum and featured a challenging, spectator-friendly course which even included a beer garden. Two of the world's best track athletes, Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda and Hellen Obiri of Kenya, won the senior titles.
Separately, World Athletics announced new dates for the World U20 Championships Nairobi, and the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Minsk. The Nairobi event will be held from August 17 to 22, 2021, one week after the Tokyo Olympic Games, while the competition in Minsk has been pushed back to April 23 - 24 of 2022. In addition, the 2022 World Athletics Half-Marathon Championships in Yangzhou, China, have been moved back by one week to March 27.
"The disruption caused by the global pandemic has made it more difficult to schedule international events over the next two years but we want to give as much certainty as we can to our athletes, Member Federations, host cities and partners," said World Athletics president Sebastian Coe. "We have done our best to choose dates that we believe are achievable and offer the best chance for our athletes and event hosts to shine on the international stage."