World Rowing has announced that Qualification Regattas will go-ahead for final Olympic spots in each boat class in Lucerne 15-17th May and Gavirate 3-5 June.
There has been speculation over the last year as to whether these regattas would occur at all considering the risks under the current world health emergency. There had been some speculation that places may have been allocated based on final positions at the 2019 (last held ) World Championships.
That FISA has now decided to proceed with these qualifications probably comes as no surprise. In recent years it has become more and more a Eurocentric organisation with little consideration given to the rest of the world, European Nations have shown that they are unwilling to travel to the rest of the world except for the occasional World Championships.
The decision makes life particularly difficult for countries that have quarantine procedures with the result that athletes from these countries will need to take a minimum two-week break from training to return home from the qualification regattas or stay in Europe until travelling to Japan in July.
Rowing Australia seems to have been caught flat-footed by the FISA announcement without a clear policy as to whether crews will be supported to go to the qualifiers. One would have thought that contingency plans and policies would have been in place and announced. Instead, athletes rowing for boats that have not qualified for the Olympics are proceeding into Australian Olympic trials starting today without a clear idea of what their fate will be no matter what their performance.
Below is FISA's statement - the full detail is on the FISA website:
"World Rowing has reached the decision deadline for the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta, the Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta and the World Rowing Cup II, all envisioning global participation. It has been World Rowing’s position that sport should continue during this pandemic and that events should, when and where possible, take place while keeping the safety and health of rowers and all participants as the priority.
Following extensive discussions with all key stakeholders and applying the previously published decision-making framework, the World Rowing Executive Committee has verified that preparations for the three events conform with the World Rowing requirements and confirms that the three regattas will take place as planned;
the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta from 15 to 17 May 2021 in Lucerne, SUI
the World Rowing Cup II regatta from 21 to 23 May 2021 in Lucerne, SUI
the Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta from 3 to 5 June 2021 in Gavirate, ITA, including international classification opportunities (in connection with the Gavirate International Para Rowing Regatta from 4 to 6 June 2021).
As previously stated, the decision-making framework for all events during the pandemic begins with two key considerations: first, the ability of the organising committee and the host city to still stage the event in the current circumstances and, second, the full commitment of the organising committee and host city to implement the strict COVID-19 transmission mitigation measures required by World Rowing’s “Return to Regattas” guidelines.
In addition, a third consideration applied to Olympic and Paralympic qualification events is whether a “fair and equal opportunity to access the event” can be achieved for teams travelling globally to participate.
World Rowing is profoundly aware of the obstacles national teams are facing in taking part in international events. In order to make the most informed decision, information was gathered through a global survey of all Member Federations. At this time a number of Member Federations would face quarantines when returning home, and both Italy and Switzerland currently have arrival quarantine measures in place for arrivals from certain countries. However, both countries have sport-related exemptions which can be used to eliminate the arrival quarantines. These will be explained below.
As the last Olympic Games delivery date for Tokyo as part of the Games’ Freight Support Plan is currently scheduled for 17 May 2021 and the last Paralympic Games delivery date as part of the Games’ Freight Support Plan is currently scheduled for 8 June 2021, there was no option to further postpone either event.
Finally, the decision-making framework took into account the need for certainty and the time required for planning travel and accommodation and to, where possible, minimise financial consequences."