23/04/20

European Athletics Championships cancelled

Following an exceptional Executive Committee meeting, the Paris 2020 Organising Committee and the Fédération Française d’Athlétisme (French Athletics Federation) have taken the joint decision to cancel the 25th European Athletics Championships, which were originally due to take place from 25 to 30 August at the Charléty Stadium. Having worked on various possible options for several weeks, it is with regret that this decision has had to be taken.

Within the context of an unprecedented health crisis and with the risks linked to the pandemic still a long way off being under control, especially with regards to public gatherings of this scale, Paris Athlé 2020 and the FFA were keen to adopt a responsible position. This decision testifies to the need to put human health and the battle against the spread of the virus before any other consideration.

Since the start of the health crisis and in constant contact with European Athletics and with State representatives (the Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of the Interior, the National Sports Agency and the Inter-Ministerial Delegation for Major Events), Paris Athlé 2020 and the FFA have been studying all the possible options, including that of hosting the event, and providing athletes and spectators alike with the prospect of some festive moments and the chance to come together again, whilst prioritising everyone’s health.

The FFA’s medical committee was notably tasked with assessing the risks for the spectators and all those accredited for the competition, should the event be run. The unfavourable opinion reported back this week by the latter body reinforced the conviction of Paris Athlé 2020 and the FFA that the European Athletics Championships could not be hosted.
European Athletics has been informed of this decision, along with various stakeholders involved in the project, who were gathered together today via videoconference.

To date, unfortunately conditions are not right for organising an event of such a scale whilst guaranteeing the possibility:
– of being able to preserve the health of the athletes, spectators and all those with accreditation (delegation members, volunteers, staff, service providers) in light of the health risks;
– of ensuring the participation of all the member federations within the context of the lasting limitations regarding access and movement within the Schengen Area;
– of guaranteeing the physical integrity of athletes who are lacking preparation and the predictable increase in the number of injuries as a result, not to mention a standard of sporting equity rendered invalid by the differences in the rules for prevention of the spread of the virus according to the various states.

Moreover, the option of postponing the European Athletics Championships until 2021 could not be retained. European Athletics has also been informed of this. Indeed, the risks linked to the pandemic make the 2021 schedule for international competition very uncertain. There is also a degree of uncertainty with regards to the economic situation, both in France and internationally, and its evolution over the coming months. Within this unique context, Paris Athlé 2020 and the FFA were loath to take the risk of incurring any additional costs inherent with a postponement, thus preserving the future of athletics. By opting to cancel these European Championships now, the FFA, a guarantor of the development and good management of French athletics, states that it is still in a position to defend a balanced budget, guaranteeing the sustainability of its delegated public service mission and the preservation of its jobs. Taking the risk of a (10 to 12-month) postponement in such uncertain conditions could have had disastrous consequences, consequences which obviously run counter to the duty and responsibility of the institution.
This same sense of responsibility has prompted Paris Athlé 2020 and the FFA to take a stand in the face of the risks of overloading the international sporting calendar and an overly dense schedule of competitions over the period spanning 2021-2023, by cancelling these European Championships. By taking a longer view, this decision also enables the focus to be switched to the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024, with the desire to bounce back, by continuing with the development of skills within the athletics family and by providing athletes in the French team with enhanced preparation for this major event.

All the ticket holders as well as those signed up for the 10km Festival Athlé will receive a full refund in line with a procedure that will be communicated in due course on the website www.athle2020.paris.

With regards to the sense of disappointment that such a decision is sure to provoke, Paris Athlé 2020 and the FFA would like to take this opportunity to thank athletics enthusiasts everywhere, athletes and fans alike, for their understanding, as well as those taking part in the volunteer programme (applicants, recruiters, jury) and the various teams rallied together, for their commitment. Finally, the constant support from the partner and private institutions of Paris Athlé 2020 and the FFA over recent weeks testifies to the abundance of energies rallied together around this project.

André Giraud, President of the French Athletics Federation (FFA)
The decision we’ve made has naturally been dictated by the scale of the health crisis, which is shaking our world, and by all the uncertainty it generates. As a precautionary measure, it was our social and moral responsibility to cancel these European Championships 2020. Moreover, I thank the efficiency of the Minister’s Office and the DIGES, who clarified the situation for us so that a decision could be made.
The health of everyone involved was our main concern and the sporting aspects of the event, together with the economic challenges, were also taken into account in our considerations. It seemed to us, collectively, with all the stakeholders, that this decision, painful as it is for the athletes and for all the fans of athletics and sport, is the most reasonable one to date.

Jean Gracia, President of the Organising Committee for the Paris Athlé 2020
Driven by the passion around a competent, dynamic and motivated team, we studied specific plans geared around hosting the event. However, despite great expectations on the part of the athletes, we’ve made the decision with the FFA to take the logical step in terms of the responsibility that has guided our decisions over recent weeks. This decision, which has been hard to make, is also a way for us to contribute to the fight to combat the pandemic, by avoiding sizeable gatherings of people from a great variety of backgrounds, both nationally and internationally.

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