Athletes in action in Kladno (© AFP / Getty Images)
World Athletics has today published a set of health and safety guidelines to assist competition organisers to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus when staging in-stadium outdoor events during the current pandemic.
The guidelines, drafted by World Athletics’ Health and Science Department, also address the post-peak period, as described by the World Health Organization (WHO) and are based on scientific and medical knowledge of the virus responsible for Covid-19.
The document offers guidance for professional athletes, support staff, technical officials, workforce, volunteers, medical staff and media. Although it doesn’t include guidelines regarding spectators, the WHO has produced a document and risk-assessment tools for mass gatherings.
Competition organisers are advised to undertake a four-point risk assessment for all accredited attendants. If an individual scores two or higher, it is recommended that they should undergo a medical clearance protocol before the event.
Other recommendations include:
- Welcome desks organised by local organising committees (LOC) at airports or railway stations should provide each arrival with a welcome bag that includes single-use masks (three per day, minimum), bottles of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and a leaflet to explain the health and safety protocols for that particular event.
- When being transported from an airport or railway station to competition hotels, all passengers and drivers should wear a mask and be seated at an appropriate distance away from one another. One-way flows should also be implemented to avoid mixing of people.
- LOCs are also strongly recommended to organise and use a medical encounter registry, recorded on an electronic system, to facilitate identification and further contact of potentially infected individuals.
At the stadium
- Spectators and accredited personnel should have two completely separate entrances and the flows should not cross. Accredited personnel should only be granted access to the competition venue if wearing a face mask and with their personal hand sanitizer.
- Face masks should be worn by everyone in the stadium, with the exception of athletes when warming up or competing in their event.
- Warm-up zones should be large open-air areas within a short walking distance of the competition stadium, and access to it should be strictly controlled. Athletes should be invited to enter the warm-up area following a specific timetable. All accredited personnel should wear a mask and wash their hands before entering warm-up zones or dedicated toilets.
- Masks should also be worn in call rooms, which should be arranged in an outdoor location. It is also mandatory to disinfect chairs between each use.
- The number of people on the field of play should be kept to a minimum, and officials who will be coming into close contact with athletes should wear protective glasses or a plastic face shield, in addition to their mask.
- Once athletes have crossed the finish line, they should try to keep their distance from the public and officials, where possible, until they collect their belongings from the call room.
Specific guidelines for individual disciplines:
- starting blocks should be cleaned between each race
- chlorine should be added to the water jump for the steeplechase
- relay batons should be cleaned between each use, and relay teams should be discouraged from gathering or hugging after a race
- the use of hand sanitizer should be recommended before each attempt in vertical jumps
- officials should clean the landing mat between each jump, using a mop and virucidal solution or use a thin layer of recyclable plastic or tissue that can be placed on the jumping mat-
sand in jumping pits should be mixed with a solution that contains biodegradable and non-skin-aggressive virucide agent
- officials who handle throwing implements should clean their hands or use disposable gloves after each handling
- in combined events, the room used by athletes to recover between disciplines should be open-air, if possible. Coaches should be encouraged to interact with their athletes using electronic devices.
- Media mixed zones should also be outside, if possible, and the number of people in the area should be kept to a minimum. A plexiglass screen should be placed between the athletes and the media, and cleaned after each interview, and separate interview boxes should be used if there are multiple positions. Without screens, a safety dead zone of three metres should be adopted when journalists interview athletes, and masks should be used by both parties.
- To keep the number of people on the field of play to a minimum, live award ceremonies are not recommended, but alternative digital solutions are encouraged.
- Once the competition has concluded, a thorough disinfection procedure should be undertaken.
The full guidelines can be downloaded here. The document is dynamic and will be updated as and when more evidence and scientific-based knowledge becomes available.