Organizers of the World University Games, which open in just under three months in Chengdu, China, say they are going ahead despite some countries pulling out of the event.
Officials confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday that Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Luxembourg have withdrawn due to COVID-19 concerns. Australia has also indicated it is withdrawing its swimmers, volleyball players, and track-and-field athletes.
“Athletics Australia continues to have many concerns around the event and its management of COVID protocols,” Athletics Australia said in a statement this week. “It is Athletics Australia’s view that it cannot endorse competition for Australian athletes in an environment that could put athletes at risk.”
A spokesman for Switzerland-based FISU — the International University Sports Federation — told AP that it has raised many concerns with Chinese authorities.
FISU has said that Chinese officials have reassured them that Chengdu will not face a lockdown. This is a concern since China’s most populous city Shanghai, with 26 million people, is now under lockdown because of worries over spreading COVID-19 cases.
The Shanghai lockdown was unforeseen, as would be a lockdown in Chengdu.
It's expected that the World University Games will operate on a closed-loop system similar to one used in the just-completed Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing.
That kept athletes and officials walled off from residents of the city of Beijing, required daily testing of all participants, extensive protocols to enter the country, and tracking by China-issued smart-phone apps.
Olivier Van Bogaert, a spokesman for FISU, said about 6,000 athletes from 90 delegations were expected to attend. He said the number was in flux.
The World University Games, scheduled to be held every two years, are to open on June 26 and close on July 7. They were pushed back from 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
China is also scheduled to hold the Asian Games from Sept. 10-25 in Hangzhou. This event involves more than 11,000 athletes and is usually larger than the participant numbers at the Summer Olympics.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports