The Manchester International Swim Meet will go ahead in 2021, albeit under a heavily revised format, limited to elite athletes as defined by the government’s COVID-19 protocols.
Taking place at the Manchester Aquatics Centre from 12th – 14th February, a number of partners have helped make the meet happen, providing a key competition opportunity for the British swimmers targeting the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Given the current lockdown in England, only those athletes on the government-approved Elite Athlete Return to Training lists are permitted to compete, with the competition run under the corresponding DCMS guidelines.
A collaborative working group including British Swimming, Manchester City Council, GLL and The City of Manchester Swim Team (COMAST) have worked extremely hard on developing the most rigorous COVID protocols possible. This will see a competition bubble, similar to the one used for the ISL in Budapest last year, implemented for four days.
Everyone involved in the meet, whatever their capacity, is required to be part of a robust testing process that has been developed in conjunction with the Manchester Safety Advisory Group (SAG), which includes Public Health England; this includes providing a negative lateral flow test upon arriving at the meet hotel. Those involved will then be required to confine themselves to the meet hotel, the Manchester Aquatics Centre and private transport for the duration. Face coverings and social distancing will be mandatory at all times, other than when swimmers are in the water.
Start lists are yet to be published, but the likes of Adam Peaty, James Wilby and Luke Greenbank - all named on the Tokyo team a couple of weeks ago - and Paralympic champions Ellie Simmonds and Ellie Robinson are all set to compete.
On the announcement, Jack Buckner, British Swimming Chief Executive, said:
“We are very grateful to Manchester for their hard work to allow this event to happen during such difficult times for the whole country, including our aquatics community. With the Olympic and Paralympic Games drawing ever closer, our swimmers need competition opportunities. The Manchester event will provide that, as other nations also return to elite competition. However, the health and safety of all involved, from athletes right through to volunteers, is our absolute priority, and we are confident that the measures we have put in place are extremely robust and will keep everyone as safe as possible.
“We acknowledge that as the British governing body for aquatics, we are in an extremely privileged position to be able to continue with our activity during this lockdown, whilst observing all the COVID regulations. This elite-only meet is key for us if we are to achieve our ambitions in Tokyo. Our thoughts are also with the wider aquatics community and we shall support all of the Home Nations' efforts to return to the water as soon as permitted.”
Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Skills for the City of Manchester, added:
"This event will be held safely behind closed doors observing all the correct COVID-safe protocols, and we are totally supportive of British Swimming's efforts to help the athletes' critical preparations for the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo later this year."Whilst the event is being run behind closed doors, there will be a livestream for fans to follow the action – more details to follow.