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Russian ski sports chief Vyalbe regrets ‘unexpected’ cancellation of 2021 Universiade

Restrictions on international arrivals have been announced by Swiss authorities with regard to a number of countries where the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been identified

MOSCOW, November 29. /TASS/. Russian skiers pinned hopes on their participation in the 2021 FISU Winter Universiade and the cancelation of the event came as an ‘utter surprise’ for them, Yelena Vyalbe, the head of the Russian Ski Association (RSA), told TASS on Monday.

The 2021 FISU Winter Universiade was scheduled to run between December 11 and 21 in Lucerne and the six cantons of Central Switzerland, including Lucerne, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schwyz, Uri, and Zug.

A source in the International University Sports Federation (FISU) told TASS on Monday afternoon that the 2021 Winter Universiade in Switzerland’s Lucerne has been cancelled due to the emergence eruption of the new Omicron coronavirus strain.

"It was an unexpected surprise not for skiers only, but for the rest as well," Vyalbe said. "Everyone looked upon this tournament."

"We never thought at all that the tournament can be cancelled and everything was all right," she stated. "Our athletes will continue training and competing on their home turf."

The Swiss University Sports Federation has confirmed to TASS that the 2021 Winter Universiade had been canceled. The press service of the FISU has also confirmed this in an official statement.

"Following meetings of the Executive Committee of FISU and the Board of Directors of the Lucerne 2021 Winter Universiade Association, FISU and Lucerne 2021 have announced with deep regret that the Lucerne 2021 Winter Universiade scheduled for 11 - 21 December will no longer take place," the statement from FISU said.

"Restrictions on international arrivals have been announced by Swiss authorities with regard to a number of countries where the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been identified," according to FISU’s statement.

Last Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the B.1.1.529 variant discovered in South Africa as a "Variant of Concern" and assigned it the Greek letter Omicron. This variant has a large number of mutations some of which alarm the WHO.

Several changes at once in the spike protein can potentially hinder the neutralization of the pathogen by antibodies which may impact the effectiveness of vaccines. Additionally, according to preliminary reports, the strain has a heightened ability to spread. As a precautionary measure, a number of countries suspended air service with southern African countries.

The Winter Universiade is an international sporting and cultural festival, which is staged every two years in a different city. The name of the international sports event is a combination of two words, which are ‘University’ and ‘Olympiad.’

It is only second to the Olympic Games. The previous edition of the Winter Universiade was hosted by Russia’s Krasnoyarsk on March 2-12 in 2019.