Today, the chairman of six sports federations and the Chairman of the Swedish Sports Confederation, have published an open letter which addresses the Minister of Culture and Sports Amanda Lind, the Minister of , Home Affairs, Mikael Damberg and the Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren on how the current pandemic legislation undermines public health.
We do not spread infection in the forest, on the sea or on the road
Together, our sports federations engage more than 420,000 members who enjoy practicing sports on the water, on the road and in the forest. We are proud to spread joy and physical and mental well-being to participants over the country - qualities which are needed in times like these. We all work towards the same goal and we want to change - not cancel events.
We naturally want to participate in the efforts aimed to reduce the risk of transmissions of the corona infection. We have carried out measures, and and we will continue to do so. We have canceled many competitions since March 2020 and we have reduced our businesses dramatically. But for many of our members - in particular young people - competitions represent an important motivator is an impofor to continue to practice sports. This applies both to children who aim to become elite performers, and to those who practice just for fun.
We welcome that the government and the Swedish Public Health Agency aim to enable certain activities, especially that young citizens are allowed to start competing again in outdoor settings. It will mean a lot to many. But we simultaneously do not understand how the safest and most public health-promoting activities are still banned by the government.
What our sports have in common is that the competition areas are located outdoors and over vast areas. Looking for checks in a forest, sailing a dinghy, or cycling along a country road cannot cause a spread of infection. But that is exactly what the government is signaling when it bans our competitions because we cannot put up fences around or build walls and roofs around our arenas. We cannot see the logic in this.
At the beginning of 2021, the Pandemic Act came into force, which provides an opportunity to make exemptions for competitions on roads, in water and in forests. But the government has not yet made any exemptions.
The consequences of this is that competitions including only a few dozen orienteers competing over a day in large forest is considered a public health hazard. At the same time, research shows that the virus does not transmit easily in the great outdoors. In addition, our sports federations are experienced and responsible organizers, who for many years have honed our organizations to manage the flow of people to avoid congestion and queues. Experience from 2020 shows that we have been able to carry out training and competitions under safe forms, albeit to a limited extent.
The lack of logic in the current regulation leads to a lack of confidence in the restrictions that the government has enforced. It also leads to more and more participants quitting organized sports activites, as they are not given the opportunity to compete, which is an important motivation for many.
We now request the government and the Public Health Agency to ensure that the new regulation does not set an absolute ceiling of 150 participants on recreational races and similar outdoor competitions carried out in vast outdoor areas.
The number of participants allowed to take part in an arrangement must stand in proportion to the size of the arena. It must therefore be possible to organize competitions with more than 150 participants if the participants are separated into groups in different zones before the start, if the competition area is vast, and if the participants are kept separated until finish. This is a management idea which our sports master well and which strikes a balance between the necessity to limit the spread of infection and the necessity to enable sports to promote public health.
It is time for the government to come to its senses and allow us to contribute to a stronger, healthier and happier Sweden, with children and adults who benefit physically and mentally.
Björn Eriksson, Chariman of the Swedish Sports Confederation
Olof Granander, Chairman of the Swedish Sailing Federation
Stefhan Klang, Chairman of the Swedish Cycling Federation
Maria Krafft Helgesson, Chairman of the Swedish Orienteering Federation
Lars Martinsson, Chairman of the Swedish Canoe Federation
Henrik Nöbbelin, Chairman of the Swedish Triathlon Federation
Johan Storåkers, Chairman of the Swedish Athletics Association