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Hosting international sporting events during the COVID-19 pandemic: lessons learnt and looking forward
  1. Margo Mountjoy1,2,
  2. B McCloskey2,3,
  3. R Bahr2,4,
  4. James H Hull5,
  5. Joanne Kemp6,
  6. Jane S Thornton7,
  7. Jon Patricios8
  1. 1Family Medicine, McMaster University Michael G DeGroote School of Medicine, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2International Olympic Committee Games Group, Lausanne, Switzerland
  3. 3Chatam House, Senior Consulting Fellow Global Health Programme, London, UK
  4. 4Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  5. 5Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health (ISEH), Division of Surgery, UCL, London, UK
  6. 6Latrobe Sports Exercise Medicine Research Centre, School of Allied Health, Human Services and Sport, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia
  7. 7Western Centre for Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Western Ontario Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, Ontario, Canada
  8. 8Wits Sport and Health (WiSH), School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg-Braamfontein, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Dr Margo Mountjoy, Family Medicine, McMaster University Michael G DeGroote School of Medicine, Waterloo, ON N2G 1C5, Canada; mountjm{at}

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It is the ethical responsibility of the sports and exercise medicine (SEM) community to ensure that the health of participants at sporting events is protected.1 The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the delivery of such events, initially stopping them completely, and then, adding layers of complexity in the delivery of health programmes to ensure participant safety. Any mass gathering, most notably those held indoors, risks cross-infection and contagion with SARS-CoV-2. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and magnified inequity in resources between high-income and low-income and middle-income countries, including those hosting mass sporting events. It has also increased the mental health burden suffered by athletes.2 Together, these difficulties make the safe and pragmatic hosting of sporting events an urgent priority. As the pandemic evolves, what lessons have we learnt and how should we adapt our health and safety programmes to mitigate COVID-19-related health risks at sporting events in the future?

Lessons learnt

We can learn from the outcomes of sporting events held during the COVID-19 pandemic in the professional leagues, international federations and the summer and winter Olympic Games.3 For example, at the Tokyo Olympic Games, impactful countermeasures included (1) physical distancing, hand hygiene, mask wearing …

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  • Twitter @margo.mountjoy, @JoanneLKemp, @janesthornton, @jonpatricios

  • Contributors All authors were involved in conception, design, drafting, revising, and approval of the final manuscript prior to submission.

  • Funding World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) 2022.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.