The World Curling Federation cancelled the 2020 World Women's Curling Championship on Thursday because of concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
Crews at CN Centre were already beginning to take down equipment on Thursday afternoon. The ice surfaces were finished and ready to play.
"Obviously it's with great disappointment that we're announcing this today," World Curling Federation spokesman Cameron MacAllister said. "We've been monitoring this situation for a number of weeks now."
The decision was made based on a number of factors, he said, including the recommendation of Northern Health and B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
"Looking around, there was a number of significant competitions cancelled around the world," MacAllister said.
The announcement came the same day as a flurry of sports event cancellations and suspensions, including the NHL's decision to suspend the regular season.
The travel ban announced by the U.S., and the potential for additional travel bans, was another factor in the decision
The World Curling Federation is also considering whether it will cancel other championship tournaments, including the LGT World Men's championship in Scotland; the World Mixed Doubles and World Senior Championships, both in Kelowna; and the European C-Division in Slovenia.
Curling Canada spokesperson Al Cameron said it was a hard decision to make to cancel the event. He thanked the volunteers and staff who had worked hard to prepare for the event.
"I got a little emotional coming here. I was here when they announced it," Cameron said. "I look at this venue and can't imagine there won't be another world curling event here."
Northern Health had been in regular contact with the organizing team and provided regular updates on the public health situation, he added.
"It's a disappointing decision. But I think it was certainly the right decision," Mayor Lyn Hall said. "This is a matter of public health and safety."
Hall said the cancellation will mean a loss of tourism revenue for businesses in the city, as well as a loss for the organizers.
"There was also 400 volunteers... I want to throw out a big, big thank you to them," Hall said. "I feel pretty confident we're going to get a world curling event back in our city."
Northern Health spokesperson Eyrn Collins said the situation has evolved significantly since Monday on the international level.
"There has been some pretty big decisions over the last few days," Collins said. "Monday we were in a different place."
On Monday, Northern Health medical health officer Dr. Rakel Kling told Prince George city council that there wasn't any additional risk from hosting this event.
Collins said the cancellation of the event does not mean there is any increased local risk of infection.
"It's with regret we're announcing it is no longer possible to run this world championship," World Curling Federation president Kate Caithness said in a press release. "However, the safety of our athletes, officials, staff and supporters is paramount which we cannot guarantee with the fast-evolving nature of this worldwide situation. My thanks go to Curling Canada, the local organizing committee, the City of Prince George and Northern Health for their prudent advice and input in taking this decision. Finally, my deepest appreciation to our athletes, officials and staff, and to curling supporters around the world for your patience and understanding in this matter."
For those who have already purchased tickets for the event refunds will be made available at the original point of purchase after March 23. If tickets were purchased online through ticketsnorth.ca refunds will be processed automatically.