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'It’s a disappointing announcement': Prince George organizers speak to World Women’s Curling cancellation

Events around the world, travel restrictions impacted decision to clean up CN Centre

“It’s a disappointing announcement, I was in the room when the announcement came down this morning, but I think it was absolutely the right decision based on what we’ve seen over the last 24 hours.”

That’s what Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall said to the media this afternoon (March 12) while CN Centre workers were taking down equipment and supplies that would’ve been used for the 2020 World Women’s Curling Championship.

The Prince George-hosted event was cancelled earlier today as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, following suit with what other big sporting events and leagues have done in the past 24 hours.

“It’s, in our opinion, the right decision and we thank Northern Health, the province, the City of Prince George, Curling Canada who are out partners in delivering this event, for their collaboration and putting the event on, first of all, and today’s decision.”

That’s from Cameron McAllister, spokesperson for the World Curling Federation, who spoke to the media about the cancellation, adding every element was taken into consideration from world travel to public health risks.

“Looking overnight, there were significant competitions around the world cancelled [...] We were starting to see much more national travel restrictions and again, with these, plus the recommendation from Northern Health today, this was the reason for the decision.”

Mayor Hall has been positive about the city hosting international events since the success of the 2015 Canada Winter Games and has no doubt a World Curling championship will return to the city sometime in the future.

While he admits there will be an economic blow to the community for tourism and business, he says there’ll also be a heartbreak for the fans and volunteers who were committing to attend the nine-day event.

“I hope that they would understand the decisions that were made,” said Hall when asked the question by PrinceGeorgeMatters.

“This is a matter of public health safety and you’re hearing loud and clear from every health agency, whether its provincial, federal or municipal, that we need to create social distance. If we don’t adhere to that and we see numbers like 30 to 70 per cent of the Canadian population could end up with this virus, I think that they’ll certainly understand. I feel pretty confident that we’re going to get a World Curling Championship back in our city at some point down the road.”

Curling Canada’s Al Cameron also spoke at today’s conference on its perspective of the cancellation, noting he feels incredibly sad for the head organizers. 

“I got a little emotional coming here because I was here for the press conference and I saw what it meant to this community to get this event,” he explained.

“Glen, Anne and Shelley have all done outstanding work and Prince George should be proud of them and proud of all those 380 volunteers because they were working tirelessly to make this event a success and it would’ve been a success beyond any doubt and an event that this city could be proud of for years to come. I look around this facility and, you know, I just can’t imagine that there won’t be a significant event here again in the future because there are good people here and there are good curling people and good business people [..] I feel for them, I really do.”

Northern Health remains one of the few authorities in all of B.C. without a confirmed case of COVID-19, but spokesperson Eryn Collins says the decision, again, was in the interest of public safety.

“I can say that we’ve fielded a lot of questions and I know so have a lot of other health authorities and the province around what people should do if they have those concerns,” Collins stated when asked by PrinceGeorgeMatters if the city has seen an increase in hospital visits since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

“At this time, a visit to your local hospital is not recommended. If people have questions, there's a lot of really good information up on the HealthLinkBC site and those are the same questions we’re getting from a lot of individuals.”

There are 53 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the province, most of which are in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions.

Most of the curling teams had reportedly been practicing outside of their home countries for several months in preparation for the 2020 World Women’s Curling Championships.