Lausanne, Switzerland


WCSS2 2021 20210129  ©International Skating Union (ISU)(2)

Bart Swings (BEL) at the ISU Speed Skating Hub in Heerenveen (NED) 2021©International Skating Union (ISU)

The five-week Speed Skating hub came to an end on February 14, 2021 in Heerenveen, the Netherlands. Over 32 hours of competition were broadcasted across four unique and exciting events including the ISU European Speed Skating Championships, two World Cups and the ISU World Speed Skating Championships. During the course of the 38-day Competition Bubble, over 2000 PCR tests were done and the most impressive number was 0, the number of positive COVID-19 infections identified in the Competition Bubble.

Because of the extraordinary conditions within the venue, many athletes managed to smash their personal best, and even a new World Record was achieved, the first world record at the sea-level Thialf Oval in fourteen years.

Although the colorful spectators were not on-site, over 51 million cumulative TV spectators enjoyed the European Championships alone (statistics from the World Cups and World Championships are not available at time of publication). The ISU’s live stream coverage of all four events produced over 156K live views despite the geo restrictions in place due to television rights. The digital exposure of Heerenveen 2021 gathered over 6,5 M interactions and 2.8M impressions on ISU social media accounts. The specially produced video content from live clips, highlights and 15 exclusive interviews accumulated over 900K views during a five-week period.

To make Heerenveen 2021 a success, months of preparation and planning were put in leading up to the five weeks that would be like no other in the history of the sport. A documentary was filmed to capture life in the bubble and document this unforgettable and unique situation. It will be released in due time as part of the ISU’s #UpAgain campaign and will serve as a memento of all these weeks that the Speed Skating community showed the World that it is possible to overcome life’s challenges to achieve ones full potential.

The biggest that had to be overcome was of course the unpredictable and ever changing COVID-19 measures enforced in each country across the world. It was important to create an environment that would be safe for all participants, from the 196 athletes, to the coaches their entourage, the officials, volunteers and staff.

A Competition Bubble was created with the goal to minimize the risk of Skaters and team staff in either being infected or infecting other people directly or indirectly and at restricting the number of persons identified as close contacts in the event of infection. Comprehensive health regulations were published explaining how the Competition Bubble would operate. Rigorous testing protocols and clear measures were implemented and followed by everyone.

“One year ago, we could not have imagined that our lives would change in so many ways.” Said Mr Jan Dijkema, ISU President “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact, and the far-reaching consequences have also been felt strongly in the ice skating community. Nevertheless, it was essential for the ISU to find creative ways and invest resources to offer Skaters and Fans international competitions again in a safe way.”

ESSC2021 20210117 ©International Skating Union (ISU)

Patrick Roest (NED) at the ISU Speed Skating Hub in Heerenveen (NED) 2021©International Skating Union (ISU)

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