Australia’s athletes will have only 48 hours to let their hair down after finishing their events at the Commonwealth Games before having to pack their bags and leave their athlete villages as part of the team’s strict COVID-19 protocols.
Officials on Wednesday said they had “agonised” over the policy but decided it was needed to minimize infection among the 700-strong cohort of athletes, coaches and support staff.
“This is designed to make sure that those that are still in the villages are those that are competing, and minimising the risk of those that might get want to go out and leave the village bringing infection back to the team,” Commonwealth Games Australia CEO Craig Phillips told reporters.
The 48-hour period will be the only time athletes have a leave pass to mingle in public, with their movements otherwise confined to athlete villages, training and competition venues.
“The risk of, I suppose, picking up COVID in that time after their competition but before they depart and transmitting it to other people is deemed very low,” said team chef de mission Petria Thomas.
“We’re conscious that we really want our team members to be able to perform at their best but we also want them to have a positive experience and we felt that was something that we could allow given the low risk as advised by our COVID advisory group.”
Around 5,000 athletes from 72 nations and territories are due to compete at Birmingham.
Athletes were subject to strict COVID protocols while in a “closed loop” at the Beijing Winter Olympics and also at last year’s summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Australia topped the table with 80 gold medals at its home Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast four years ago, well clear of second-placed England with 45.