Australian athletes will have just 48 hours to let their hair down after completing their Commonwealth Games events before having to pack their bags and leave their sporting villages as part of the team’s strict COVID-19 protocols.
Officials on Wednesday said they were “pained” about the policy but decided it was necessary to reduce infection among a group of 700 athletes, coaches and support staff.
“This is designed to ensure that those who remain in the villages are the ones competing, and to reduce the risk of those who may want to go out and leave the village to reinfect the team,” Commonwealth Games Australia CEO Craig Phillips told reporters.
The 48-hour period will be the only time athletes will receive permission to mingle in public, as their movements are restricted to athletes’ villages and training and competition venues.
“I think the risk of catching COVID at the time after the competition but before they leave and passing it on to other people is considered very low,” said Expedition Team Leader Petria Thomas.
“We realize we really want our team members to be able to perform at their best but we also want them to have a positive experience and we felt this was something we could allow given the low risk as advised by our COVID guidelines group.”
About 5,000 athletes from 72 countries and territories are scheduled to compete in Birmingham.
Athletes underwent strict COVID protocols while in a “closed loop” at the Winter Olympics in Beijing and also at last year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Australia topped the table with 80 gold medals at the Commonwealth Games at home on the Gold Coast four years ago, well ahead of second-placed England with 45.