The winter edition of the 2021 European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) has been postponed from February to December to safeguard all those involved in the event – in particular the young athletes – during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The European Olympic Committees (EOC) agreed to the decision today together with the local organisers of the Vuokatti 2021 EYOF. The new dates for the continent’s leading multi-sport event for athletes aged 14-18 are 11-18 December.
“This was by no means an easy decision to take,” said EOC Acting President Niels Nygaard. “For many months now we had hoped against hope that the pandemic would improve enough to safely host Vuokatti 2021 on schedule. Sadly, it was not to be, but postponing the EYOF to December means that the vast majority of the athletes who were looking forward to competing in February will still be able to participate later in the year.”
Some 1,800 athletes from 48 European National Olympic Committees were expected to take part in nine sports disciplines from 6-13 February next year prior to the postponement. On the sports programme are alpine skiing, biathlon, ice hockey, snowboarding, cross country skiing, ski jumping, short track, figure skating and Nordic combined. With the inclusion of girls’ ice hockey, Vuokatti stands poised to become the most gender-balanced in the event’s history.
“Flexibility will be the key,” said EOC Secretary General Raffaele Pagnozzi. “Rest assured that we will do all we can for the competitors affected, and I am sure that, together with our partners, we will organise a fantastic European Youth Olympic Festival for Finland and for all the young athletes of Europe.”
EOC Sports Director Peter Brüll is in full contact with the International Federations (IFs). “Together with the IFs, we are now discussing possible adaptations of the sports programme,” Brüll said.
As the number of new COVID-19 cases edges ever closer to its spring peak in Europe and with no end to the pandemic in sight, it was agreed that the best solution would be to reschedule the event.
“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 situation does not allow for the EYOF to be held as planned,” said Mikko Salonen, CEO of the Finnish Olympic Committee. “The most important thing for us is to ensure the safety of the young athletes, and that is not yet possible in February 2021.”
Chair of the Local Organising Committee and Mayor of Sotkamo, Mika Kilpeläinen, added that various contingency plans had already been planned for in Kainuu, the region where the competitions were set to take place, at the onset of the pandemic earlier this year. In the end, however, Kilpeläinen said the rescheduling of the EYOF was the only way forward.
“We want to be responsible and act with health in mind,” he said. “Therefore, postponing the event is the only solution. The timing will bring its own challenges to the arrangements, but our promise continues, and we will prepare with the same determination and commitment as earlier. Our goal is to host the best EYOF event of all time here in Vuokatti and Kajaani.”
The urban area of Vuokatti, in the municipality of Sotkamo, will host alpine skiing, biathlon, cross country skiing, figure skating, short track and snowboarding. The city of Kajaani will host the ice hockey events.