On Wednesday, France and Germany enacted new restrictions in the battle against coronavirus. Germany announced a closure of all bars and restaurants, along with other restrictions, while France has reentered a state of lockdown. The announcement comes just days after Italy returned to enhanced restrictions as cases are on the rise in the former European epicenter, which was a site of significant disruption to the 2019-20 World Cup season.
“We think we will suffer a bit this month but by gritting our teeth with these restrictions, we’ll be able to breathe again in December,” Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, told reporters at a Sunday press conference.
Europe is now experiencing its own case of COVID fatigue among citizens. Officials are hoping to keep schools and critical economic activity up and running. Nevertheless, the fall surge and restrictions across the continent raise obvious questions about the World Cup season, which is scheduled to resume in Austria and Finland in the coming weeks.
Reports out of Europe paint a pessimistic picture with the FIS scrambling to respond. The upcoming parallel events in Lech/Zuers, Nov. 13-14, appear to be safe for the time being. As for the women’s races in Levi, which are expected to mark a return to racing for Mikaela Shiffrin, the Finnish government in Helsinki is expected to draw up health protocols in cooperation with the FIS.
“The Local Organizing Committee (LOC) has consulted the health authorities after the Finnish Government indicated [earlier this month] public events are under scrutiny should the epidemiological situation worsen,” the Levi organizer said in its most recent statement. “As a result the LOC is proceeding with their health and security plan approved by the authorities.”
From there, the schedule may get a bit more complicated with the World Cup headed into France, Switzerland, and Italy in December. The men are slated to contest a pair of giant slaloms in Val d’Isere, Dec. 5-6, with speed events set to commence a week later at the French resort. The men then take a turn into Italy with Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Madonna, and Bormio all on the calendar. The women are scheduled in St. Moritz, Courchevel and Val d’Isere before heading to Semmering, Austria.
Italy’s restrictions are currently scheduled to be lifted Nov. 24, while France is planning a loosening of the lockdown on Dec. 1. But if history is any guide, those dates could be extended.
The European restrictions and lockdowns come on the heels of news that Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, last season’s overall champ, tested positive for the virus just days after competing in Soelden.
Earlier this month, FIS Race Director Markus Waldner said the World Cup “hangs by a thread.”
“The second wave has arrived and the situation has worsened almost across Europe,” Waldner told the Tiroler Tageszeitung. “We have done everything we can to create a program that is as simple as possible. But now we are at the mercy of the situation. It is impossible to estimate what to expect in two months. We’ll pull through Sölden, but after that the whole World Cup is still in the stars. It doesn’t look good at the moment.”
Waldner also stated a plan had been considered to bring World Cup races to North America in the spring. “We were considering catching up on the North American races at the end of the season. But they refused. We could also extend the season if necessary. We’ll have to be flexible.”