British tourist is blamed for Covid-19 outbreak in Switzerland that has caused officials to scrap Ski World Cup races
- 91st Luberhorn classic in Wengen, Switzerland, was cancelled earlier this week
- Covid outbreak infected 60 at resort – half of the cases blamed on a single Briton
- World Cup races moved to Kitzbuehel but Austrian officials have since moved the races again – now to Flachau – after British mutant strain discovered in Tyrol
- Do YOU know the Briton blamed for the Wengen shutdown? Email [email protected]
A British tourist has been blamed for a Covid-19 outbreak in Switzerland which has forced officials to scrap prestigious downhill races in the Ski World Cup.
The Laubernhorn classic in Wengen, one of the most well attended events on the circuit, has been called off after around 60 people at the mountain resort tested positive for the virus.
Swiss officials said that half of all the cases could be traced back to one British tourist who visited Wengen over the Christmas season.
Wengen was to host three races on the Lauberhorn mountain from Friday to Sunday, but two of those have been rescheduled to take place in Austria.
Sam Morse of the US competes during the Downhill race of the men’s FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup in Wengen last year
The stunning skiing in Wengen, Switzerland, is a favourite of British tourists with breathtaking vistas that include the Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau mountains
This includes the classic men’s downhill which was due to take place on Saturday, on the longest course in the sport which typically draws 30,000 spectators.
The races were moved to Kitzbuehel earlier this week but today Austrian health officials said that a cluster of 17 covid cases were discovered in the Tyrol.
The races are now to be hosted at Flachau this weekend, an Austrian village around 70 miles east of Kitzbuehel.
Earlier, Swiss health official Gundekar Giebel had blamed half the cases in Wengen on a single British tourist.
Giebel said: ‘In a hotel, the virus had already spread during the Christmas season. Almost half of the 60 cases so far can be traced back to a single British tourist.
‘Now the race has been cancelled. The danger is too great that the event could develop into a super-spreader event.’
The resort is popular with British tourists and provides breathtaking vistas that include the Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau mountains that rise to more than 14,000ft.
Wengen has been a men’s World Cup fixture since the circuit started in January 1967, and footage from the 1969 race was used in the Robert Redford movie ‘Downhill Racer.’
Bernhard Aregger, CEO of Swiss-Ski, told Ski Racing: ‘The decision hurts enormously – all the more because the organising committee has done excellent preparatory work.
‘The cancellation of one of the most prestigious race weekends in the World Cup calendar makes the heart of every ski fan bleed.
‘Nevertheless, it is our job to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Even when making such difficult decisions, health is in the foreground.’
The Arenas Resort Victoria-Lauberhorn has now announced it will shut by January 20 in consultation with the cantonal authorities.
The population has been asked to stay indoors and get tested for covid.
Local authorities have sent a mobile test teams to the alpine village to help out.
Swiss health officials have not yet determined whether the outbreak is down to the new British strain of covid, which is believed to be much more infectious.
Switzerland’s Mauro Caviezel clears a curve with the north face of the Eiger mountain in the background during a training session of the Men’s downhill race at the FIS Alpine SkiingWorld Cup in Wengen last year
Wiley Maple of the U.S. in action during the first run of last year’s Lauberhorn classic in Wengen
Wengen’s races are the first cancellations on the men’s or women’s World Cup circuits this season linked to the pandemic.
Schedules were modified – moving races from the United States and Canada to Europe – to protect athletes and team officials by limiting travel and contact between racers in different events.
The cancellation comes less than a month before the winter World Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy, February 8-21).
After last season was cut short by the pandemic, this season is being skied without crowds.
France’s Alexis Pinturault leads the 2020-21 World Cup overall standings.
Tourists across Europe have descended on Switzerland and Austria this winter, the only countries which have kept their ski resorts open amid the pandemic.
The Swiss ‘lockdown light’ strategy seeks to balance health considerations with the broader impacts that shutting people inside has on society and the economy.