Opinion by Anonymous
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA – As countries ease restrictions triggered by the COVID19 pandemic the new normal could be a tough moment for most African athletes especially those from the East who form the bulk of long distance and roadrunners. Several countries are contemplating stringent quarantine measures or restrictive travel conditions for visitors arriving from outside their regions.
There are concerns that the runners could be greatly affected by these rules.
It could be difficult for these athletes to get visas for competitions as the travel restrictions are set to be in place for the better part of 2020, or until the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the countries are free from the virus.
Most of the major races & competitions are being held in Asia, Europe and US.
There have been suggestions that some countries might insist on COVID19 test results upon arrival or before they issue visas, which for now remain largely unavailable in most African countries. This might lead to East African athletes suffering more than they already have so far due to cancelled races.
World Athletics (WA, the then IAAF) has now allocated a welfare fund for international athletes whose incomes are considerably affected by the pandemic. This might help a few athletes who meet the strict eligibility criteria set. But will WA be able to help athletes navigate the tough travel restrictions set by various governments?
The travel bans on athletes from these countries will certainly affect the middle- and long-distance runners. As record-breaking performances have declined post Kenenisa Bekele era, competitions might be boring to watch if the best athletes of this generation are not allowed to compete.
Even if the travel restrictions are not as bad as feared, the 14 days self-quarantine rule if enforced they might cause serious problems. Who will pay for the athletes’ two-week stay before the race/competition? and how will this affect their race earnings?
Athletes now spend the possibility of up to 28 days in self-quarantine, half in the event hosting nation and again their homeland when they jet from competing. A month off training is a long time! Then there is also the issue of acclimatization for the athletes who usually train at higher altitudes while most of the competitions are at sea level.