Published March 9, 2020
The impact of COVID-19 on sport is becoming increasingly worrisome and it has become THE story in 2020. Multiple world championship and Olympic qualification events, such as the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships, the Women's Water Polo Olympic Games Qualification Tournament, the Alpine Ski World Cup Finals, and the Women’s World Hockey Championships in Nova Scotia, have already been canceled or postponed and more will likely be announced soon. Olympic and Paralympic officials have downsized the Olympic torch relay ceremony, are considering the adjustment of qualification criteria, and are closely monitoring the potential impact of the virus to the Games. In professional sport, pro leagues are now playing in empty stadiums or are considering it, and others are being scrutinized by health officials for allowing patrons to attend games.
In addition, this weekend we learned that the Arctic Winter Games, hosted in Whitehorse, was canceled just one week prior to the Opening Ceremonies and its first competitions. The decision was made following a recommendation from Yukon’s acting Chief Medical Officer of Health and in consultation with the Arctic Winter Games International Committee, Government of Yukon, and the City of Whitehorse. There are currently no known cases of COVID-19 in the Yukon, however other regions travelling to the Games are experiencing unexpected community spread of the virus. This is no doubt a crushing blow to the athletes, cultural performers, Host Society, and all other stakeholders of the Games.
The recent event announcements and the reported rises in infectious cases over the past week will undoubtedly impact our sport leaders. Last week I was pleased to see a recent travel risk update for NSOs that was prepared by Chief Medical Officers from the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Paralympic Committee, and the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network. In addition, there are a number of travel advisories that sport leaders should continue to monitor, most notably the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Travel Advice webpage and the WHO International Travel & Health Updates page. These updates are important in aiding sport leaders in assessing the risks associated with travelling for events, training and competitions and potentially in hosting or sanctioning those activities here in Canada.
In January we announced the launch of our Travel Risk Management Policy Suite, which provides sport leaders with a clear framework for mitigating team travel risks. The Team Manager Manual within the Policy Suite includes a framework for medical emergency planning, which is divided into three stages: medical emergency preparedness, medical emergency response and medical emergency follow-up. As it relates to preparedness, the manual outlines how an organization will identify common health risks associated with the travel destination (i.e. mosquito-borne illnesses such as the Zika virus, contaminated drinking water, altitude sickness), any recommended procedures, a travel first-aid checklist, and types of medications (i.e. Imodium, Diamox) or vaccines (i.e. Hepatitis A/B, Influenza) to mitigate health risks for team members. The manual also includes a template ‘Need to Know’ document that a trip manager can use to educate team members on the travel destination. This includes an outline of common viruses, medications, vaccines, and measures to prevent infection.
Considering the recent COVID-19 situation, I have added a new appendix to the Travel Policy Suite, titled Infectious Disease Prevention. The document outlines the transfer of infectious diseases and the key preventative measures that are shared by the Government of Canada and WHO. It also details the general protocol for what to do when a team member is believed to have contracted an infectious disease. The inclusion of this appendix serves to further fortify the Travel Policy Suite and provide sport organizations with a comprehensive tool for managing their travel risks.
As with all risk management, sport organizations must continue to monitor their travel risks and be apprised of the latest updates and mitigation opportunities. Continuously assessing travel risks, applying risk management strategies (retain, reduce, transfer, avoid) and determining action steps (proceed with travel, take discretion, do not travel) will help to ensure that your team members and your organization are prepared for risks like COVID-19.
We will continue to monitor this evolving situation and its impact on sport travel, and we will aim to share any further risk mitigation measures. If you have any questions about your team travel or SLSG’s Travel Risk Management Policy Suite, please feel to connect with us.
Jason Robinson (firstname.lastname@example.org - @sportarchitect)