World figure skating champs in Montreal cancelled due to COVID-19


Canadian ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier perform their routine during a practice in Montreal, on Monday, February 24, 2020. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

MONTREAL — The world figure skating championships in Montreal have been cancelled because of the spread of COVID-19.

The championships were scheduled to run March 18-22 at the Bell Centre.

Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann made the announcement at the legislature in Quebec City.

McCann said a number of factors went into the decision.

"A lot of people coming from different countries, it’s in an indoor space, there’s thousands of people, there has just been a pandemic declared in the world so we think it’s (the) best scenario to protect population," McCann said.

Skate Canada said in a statement that the Quebec government informed the organization of its decision to cancel the event on Wednesday.

"Skate Canada and the International Skating Union (ISU) have closely monitored the provincial and federal health authorities position on the spread of the virus and fully respect the difficult decision made today," the statement said.

"Like the authorities, Skate Canada and the ISU are committed to the health and safety of the athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and spectators."

Skate Canada said ticket provider Evenko will have details on the refund process in due course.

Figure skating events tend to attract many fans in an older demographic, which is a concern for the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Alon Vaisman, a resident at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine who specializes in infection control, said age is a risk factor at events.

"If they’re elderly individuals, it’s even worse or even more of a risky thing to do," he said. "So unfortunately, like even when we say an NBA game being played without anyone, that’s all, that will probably be at least 100 people there, right? Even if you have zero fans … you’re still putting people at risk by bringing them together in close contact with one another.

"So it’s all relative, and surely, the bigger events have to go first. And then the smaller events after that, but it’s hard. It’s hard to evaluate. It’s hard to put a number on any of these things and what the risk is if you don’t cancel it and how big of a problem it will be if you don’t cancel it."

The figure skating is the latest sporting event that has been wiped out by the novel coronavirus. The world women’s hockey championship, which was scheduled to start later this month in Nova Scotia, was cancelled on Saturday.

The other major winter world championship event in Canada remains on schedule. The women’s world curling championship is slated to start on Saturday in Prince George, B.C.

A World Rugby Sevens event went on as scheduled this past weekend in Vancouver.

Montreal, which last hosted the world figure skating championships in 1932, was awarded the event in September of 2017.

The 2021 world championships are scheduled for Stockholm.

There was no word on whether Montreal will get a future world figure skating championships to make up for the loss of the 2020 event.

The IIHF plans to have the women’s hockey event in Nova Scotia in 2021.

— With files from John Chidley-Hill in Toronto.

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