Nebelhorn Trophy Adapts to Covid-19 Virus
A hint for how the Grand Prix will be organized
by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
The Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, named after a mountain next to the rink, is the most legendary early fall competition in the history of figure skating. It has existed for 52 years. Therefore the German federation wanted to keep this tradition in spite of the Covid-19 Virus under any circumstances if the health department of the State of Bavaria allowed it. Germany has a much smaller infection rate and much less victims than most other countries in the world. There are only around 5 or 10 dead people per day in September. Therefore the local organizers, the health department of the local county authorities and Peter Krick, the former ISU event manager and now the new "Covid-19 manager of the German Federation“ made a hygiene concept how to organize it. The main goal was to give skaters a possibility to compete safely.
All skaters and coaches stayed in hotels or B & Bs within walking distance to the rink. Therefore they didn’t have to use a shuttle bus. Normally there is one main entrance door which also serves as exit door. But this time, the only way into the rink was through a side door and different from the exit door in order to avoid people meeting and walking too close from each other. A volunteer was standing at this entry door all day and did not let anybody in if this person has not used the hand disinfection liquid which was available with a separate paper napkin. There were several hand disinfection bottles around the rink for use, for example in each wash room, lounge entrance and dressing room. This side door gave way to the accreditation area. Everybody had to fill out a form there to give his name, phone number and E-Mail-address. In case somebody is found positive all other persons are informed and asked if they had a closer contact to this person. If there was a waiting line at the accreditation table, people were asked to observe the distance of six feet from each other.
Everybody had to wear a mask which covers mouth and nose whenever in the rink, except when skating on the ice or coming from the ice and sitting in the kiss and cry after the performance. While the skaters were warming up off the ice, they were not allowed to run around the rink, but there was a special warming up area, like at the big championships. Therefore, the ice in one of the three rinks in Oberstdorf was covered with wood. All persons had to keep a distance from each other of six feet, even when they wore masks. All ways in the rinks were only-way ways in order to avoid people coming too close together. Therefore sometimes you had to walk a longer way around the rink if you wanted to go somewhere, for example to the washroom. There were not only two, but four additional provisional dressing rooms for the skaters, designated by name and country. Therefore, the skaters also could keep a distance of six feet while they were changing their clothes.
In the skating lounge, the skaters had to wear masks and were not allowed to sit, only to stand and eat or drink something (without masks). No self-service was allowed, but a volunteer gave them the food and drinks they would like to have. The tables were cleaned after each use by volunteers. Only one coach per skater was allowed in the kiss and cry area and at the board during practice.
Some skaters, coaches and officials who arrived from a “risk country“ with a much higher number of Covid-19 cases than Germany had to undergo a Covid-19 test (free of charge) when arriving at the airport in Munich or when they came by car or train to the German border. They had to stay in their hotel room until they got the negative test result online the next day. They were allowed to enter the rink only if they had shown the negative online test result at the accreditation. Many skaters said during or after the competition in the press conference that they felt very safe in the rink and well protected from the virus.
In the press room, there were as many tables as accredited journalists or photographers, only one media person was allowed at each table. The number of media people was limited to preferably those who have come to this Trophy regularly. Every media person had to use the same table during the whole week. Tables and chairs and doors were cleaned every evening after everybody had left. All media people also had to wear masks, also during interviews and in the Mixed Zone, except when they were eating and drinking in the press room. Sandwiches were wrapped in paper. The seats of the skaters in the press conference room also had a distance of at least six feet from one another. It was not allowed to stand and talk to other people too close from each other in the rink.
No spectators were allowed in the rink, not even the parents or friends of the skaters. But the livestream of the whole competition was free and available in all countries except Japan and had a very good quality. A TV crew from Japan filmed on their own and bought the rights. There was a special big TV screen in the lobby of the town hall of Oberstdorf for those who were on site and wanted to watch the competition. Photographers got an assigned seat at the rinkboard and could take photos only from the same place during the whole competition.
Between the seats of the judges, there was provisional plexi-glass. Therefore no judge got breathing air from any other judge. The technical panel was sitting less closely together than usually and discussed about elements via microphone, like at big events. While judging, the jury members were free to wear masks or not. But as soon as the judges stood up and went to the judges room or the washroom, they had to wear masks, except when they were eating or drinking something. The judges computer were thoroughly cleaned with alcohol after each part of the competition. The skaters did not draw their starting number, but the technical controller did this in the press conference room and the skaters just watched while sitting there.
In other years, the ISU has always held an examination for those judges who wanted to become ISU judges, and the ISU paid some money to the German federation for organizing this examination; but not this year. No ISU person appeared this year at Nebelhorn Trophy at all although Lausanne in Switzerland, where the ISU is headed, is only four hours away by car and there is no border control between Switzerland and Germany. But everybody in the ISU must certainly have been very happy that the first real international competition in this season was organized at all. With all these sometimes costly safety measures and no money from tickets and for the judges examination, the German federation seems to make a financial loss of around 10,000 or 15,000 US Dollars. But their vice president and treasurer Florian Gerlach and Covid-19 manager Peter Krick said they did it for the skaters.