Anonymous National Player: Pushing Forward On WUGC Invites Costly Disruptions, Risks For Smaller Countries

Talking through the series of emotions and impacts of continuing to keep hope alive that WUGC will still happen in 2021.

WUGC 2016 Opening Ceremonies
Opening ceremonies at WUGC 2016. Photo: Jolie J Lang — UltiPhotos.com

This opinion piece was contributed to Ultiworld by a member of a European national team who asked to remain anonymous.

Last week, Ultiworld published an article about WUGC 2021 in which WFDF President Robert “Nob” Rauch expressed optimism about moving forward with the tournament, scheduled for July 24-31 in Leeuwarden, Netherlands next year.

Reading this article, a number of emotions swept across me. The first was shock. Am I living on a different planet from everyone else? Has no one noticed that we are still very much in a pandemic and encountering the second wave? My second reaction was anger. For smaller countries using WUGC as a development tournament, this has a massive impact. At what point is it too late to start training? My final reaction was sadness. I know what it is like to run a big tournament. It’s not easy to let go of something you’ve worked so hard for. But there is still a significant risk of the tournament being canceled at any point, and I would hate for teams and organizers to be financially ruined by this decision.

I’m a national team player. I was planning on playing WUGC. I should be happy to see that the tournament might happen! But the reality is that I have not seen my teammates on the field since February 2020. There has been no opportunity for us to train together. Developed teams like the US may not see this as a great issue. The US starts focused training only weeks before the tournament starts, and they still crush the competition. Smaller countries are being asked to make a major investment of time and money, with a high probability that they will only be able to start training in spring at best. For many smaller teams, I see this as a big reason to change their decision to attend WUGC.

Rauch said that as long as things don’t “really go off the rails”, then WUGC will probably continue. What won’t help WFDF’s case for holding the tournament as scheduled is that the Netherlands just reported their worst pandemic numbers to date. Coronavirus cases are averaging over 8000 a day, and as of December 14, the Dutch government is implementing a full five-week lockdown in response to another surge. The Netherlands is not the only victim to high infection cases. Other countries in Europe are also struggling, and meanwhile, the US reported record-setting deaths and hospitalizations this month. The Netherlands also announced recently that entry to the Netherlands for non-EU citizens will only be permitted if travelers can provide a negative test result. Of course, one would hope that this restriction would be lifted by July, but with teams from over 25 countries on the original WUGC bid list being impacted by this rule, a few positive tests could cause havoc for the TOC scheduling team.

Yes, the news of a vaccine is fantastic. However, we have to be realistic about the time it will take for various countries to distribute immunizations. Many internationally competitive ultimate players are young, fit, and likely to be deemed low-risk. As vaccines are rolled out over the course of 2021, this younger demographic will see themselves bottom of the chain, becoming eligible only after higher-priority groups are served first. Furthermore, while American officials are optimistic about the pace of the US vaccine rollout, many other countries anticipate a slower timeline. Dutch media reported this week that low-risk citizens are unlikely to be vaccinated until August — well after WUGC 2021 is scheduled to take place.

I am fully aware how much effort and time WFDF, the TOC, and the Dutch Frisbee Federation have put into this event. But yet, you have to ask yourself: is it worth it? With a heavy heart, I hereby say that I don’t think WUGC should happen. There are risks to everything in life, but I feel this risk is just too big for WFDF to take.

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