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Rally fans in Australia and New Zealand should be rightly peeved that neither country has been included in the 2021 World Rally Championship calendar. The affects of COVID-19 on world sport is well known, and we always knew that the 2021 calendar was probably going to be Euro-centric. However, the WRC seem to be contradicting themselves when they say that next year's schedule has been designed to be held in a 'safe manner'. “In developing the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship calendar, we had to take pragmatic and strategic decisions on the continuing impact on global travel next year," WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel said on the weekend. “We could not foresee any long-haul events being held in a safe manner for the public, or for our large group of travelling staff, suppliers, competitors and media, for the first five months of 2021." That makes sense, but what about for the following seven months of the year? Okay, I know there are many reasons for including or not including an event on the calendar, but excluding Australia and New Zealand primarily because of our closed international borders is a real slap in the face for both governing bodies.
Yes, at the moment there's no real chance that either country will open their borders to Europeans, but what about in the second half of 2021? Nobody knows what the future holds.
In the second half of next year's WRC, there are events planned in Estonia, Finland, the UK, Chile, Spain and Japan. In four of those countries, the most recent daily COVID-19 figures are staggering. Japan's is doing the best with 435 new cases, but Chile had 1,776 new ones on October 12, Spain a whopping 12,788, and the UK a mind-numbing 13,972. How can the WRC plan with any certainty that any of those countries will be suitable, or capable, or running a world class event next year?
In comparison, on October 12, Australia had 22 new cases, and New Zealand none.
Good planning has seen the WRC schedule six reserve events, just in case any of the 12 rounds are not able to be held. Unfortunately, none of them stack up much better either. Yesterday, Turkey had 1,629 new cases, Latvia 109, Belgium 5,327, Greece 280, Italy 4,619, and Argentina – the reserve Southern Hemisphere event – 10,324. Yes, 10,324 new cases, and that's down from 16,447 on October 7! Are Aussies and Kiwis salty we've missed out? You'd better believe it! NEW COVID-19 CASES AS AT OCTOBER 12 (source: Google)
2021 WRC events New COVID cases
France 8505
Sweden 569
Croatia 181
Portugal 1249
Italy 4619
Kenya 271
Estonia 18
Finland 42
United Kingdom 13,972
Chile 1776
Spain 12,788
Japan 435
Not included
Australia 22
New Zealand 0
Reserve events
Turkey 1629
Latvia 109
Belgium 5327
Greece 280
Italy 4619
Argentina 10,324

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