Updated: March 13, 2020 05:22 AM
Created: March 12, 2020 09:48 PM
After three years of planning and excitement, the 2020 Coop FIS Cross Country Ski World Cup Sprint Finals has been canceled. The event was planned for March 17 at Theodore Wirth Park.
There were 140 athletes from 15 countries expected to compete in front of thousands of fans.
“We can no longer do this event in a responsible way,” said John Munger, the Loppet Foundation executive director. “The responsible thing to do for public health and safety, and for our volunteers and our athletes and everyone involved, is to shut it down.”
There were 30 athletes competing for the United States, an advantage for the home team.
“We get more allocation of athletes, so for many of them they’re missing the one chance they had to compete in a World Cup,” he said. “That's been a dream for those athletes, to be able to compete on American snow.”
The Fastenal Parallel 45 Festival leading up to the event has also been canceled.
Munger told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they'd been working with their medical director and U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association staff to develop a protocol to prevent any possible spread of COVID-19 at the event. It included keeping international athletes away from spectators and banning autographs.
Over the past 48 hours, however, he said it was clear they needed to cancel it altogether.
Two days ago the Norwegian Ski Federation announced they wouldn’t send their team to North America to race, according to Munger. The number of cases in Minnesota continued to rise, and then several large sporting events were canceled on Wednesday.
“There’s been some emotion here over the last few hours,” he said. “That everything people have put all of this effort into has disappeared so quickly, right when we could see it.”
Munger told us they made the decision on Wednesday evening, before President Trump announced European travel restrictions. Their announcement was delayed because they had to coordinate with the International Ski Federation in Europe, which is in a different time zone.
About 20,000 people were expected to attend the weekend events. More than 10,000 spectators who bought tickets will not receive a refund.
The event cost about $2.5 million. Munger told us they are still analyzing how much of that the Loppet Foundation will absorb but said it doesn’t look good.
Seventy people invested more than 12,000 hours of work to develop the event over the past three years.
“It’s a bummer for the whole community,” he said. “This was an opportunity to show off what we can do, what Minnesota winters can be.”
They are now looking ahead to 2022, hoping to host a three day World Cup Finals event.
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