No fans: US Olympic speedskating trials set for empty arena
MILWAUKEE (AP) — The U.S. Olympic speedskating trials will be held without fans or media because of the surge in COVID-19 cases after thousands of people planned to attend.
U.S. speedskating made the announcement just two days before the start of the trials at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee.
The five-day trials will determine the long track team that will represent the U.S. at the Beijing Games.
Organizers at the Pettit center said it was a last-minute decision to protect local and national athletes' health.
Pettit center officials say the five-day event will still be televised, but no press or fans will be allowed inside.
Officials acknowledged this is disappointing news for the athletes, their families and organizers.
"I think U.S. speedskating really wanted to have it, and they just got to the point where we have to set our emotions aside and say what are the facts telling us, what's best for the athletes. I think some from the athletes, from the coaches a little bit too. They've worked for years to have a chance to compete in the Olympics," said Pettit Center Executive Director Randy Dean.
Dean said ticketholders will receive a refund in the mail within 30 days, but some have contacted the center to give theirs as a donation.
The short track squad was set last month at separate trials in Salt Lake City.
The Beijing Olympics are scheduled to begin Feb. 4 despite a startling rise in COVID-19 cases because of the omicron variant.