Uzbekistan restricts travel due to Omicron as uncertainty grows with World Weightlifting Championship in Tashkent one week away

Already this week the Winter Universiade in Switzerland and the World Squash Championships in Malaysia have been suspended, as the events of 2020 seem to threaten the international sports calendar again

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Weightlifting - Men's +109kg - Group A - Tokyo International Forum, Tokyo, Japan - August 4, 2021. Lasha Talakhadze of Georgia in action. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Weightlifting - Men's +109kg - Group A - Tokyo International Forum, Tokyo, Japan - August 4, 2021. Lasha Talakhadze of Georgia in action. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

The World Weightlifting Championship that is due to begin on December 7 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, has been suddenly threatened by the logical international fear of the spread of the new Omicron variant, a highly mutated form of COVID-19.

Omicron was detected more than a week ago by researchers in South Africa and its presence has already been confirmed in more than a dozen countries on five continents.

An official from the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) told Around The Rings “the situation is being monitored minute by minute.”

This Wednesday Uzbekistan announced that it would suspend flights with Hong Kong, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Tanzania and South Africa starting on December 3.

FILE PHOTO: Syringes with needles are seen in front of a displayed stock graph and words "Omicron SARS-CoV-2" in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Syringes with needles are seen in front of a displayed stock graph and words "Omicron SARS-CoV-2" in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The Central Asian nation’s Health Ministry said residents of those nations and people who have recently visited them would not be able to enter Uzbekistan, while those arriving from Egypt, Israel, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic would be quarantined for 10 days.

With this decision from the health authorities of the host country of the World Cup, some notification from the IWF is expected shortly.

China was the first country to announce it was withdrawing from participation. The Chinese are taking extreme measures two months before the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Some 500 weightlifters remained registered and with a confirmed plane ticket to Uzbekistan, the IWF source said before the travel restrictions were made known.

IWF 2021 Tashkent logo (IWF)
IWF 2021 Tashkent logo (IWF)

During the World Championships the voting for a new Athletes Commission is also planned, which for the first time would have three representatives with voice and vote in the Executive Board of the IWF and another three with the right to vote in the elections of the International Federation to define a new one.

Omicron threatens to repeat the sad story lived from the beginning of 2020 with the cancellations and postponements of the international sports calendar “although today the world is more prepared for vaccines, and health protocols,” says the IWF official.

He recalled that no face-to-face event was held last year. As the week began, two events of the international program were canceled: the World Winter Universiade based in Lucerne, Switzerland, from December 11 to 21, and the Men’s World Squash Championships in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from December 7 to 12.

The International Federation of University Sports (FISU) explained that Swiss authorities have announced restrictions on international arrivals from several countries where the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been identified.

“Many more restrictions are expected in the coming days. The national authorities of other nations are also announcing similar restrictions, and the first case related to the Omicron variant has already been identified in Switzerland, “commented the FISU.

Several delegations would have had to undergo a ten day quarantine that would not have been completed before the start of the first Universiade competitions.

World Squash explains the appearance of the Omicron variant and the travel and visa restrictions and, the closing of borders imposed on a number of countries, would prevent all nations from participating in their World Championship.

For both cases, travel limitations would also have had an impact on the personnel required in the general logistics of competitions such as refereeing or television production.

Japan has already announced it has closed its borders to non-Japanese visitors and could announce further travel restrictions in the coming days.