GENEVA: Athletes from Ebola-hit countries in West Africa have been barred from competing in some sports in the Youth Olympics that open in China at the weekend, the International Olympic Committee and Chinese organizers said on Friday.
“Athletes from affected areas will not compete in combat sports and it was also decided that no athletes from the region would compete in the [swimming]pool,” they said in a statement.
The decision, which affects two athletes in combat sports and one in pool events, was made “with regard to ensuring the safety of all those participating” in the Games taking place in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, the statement said.
Additionally, all those in delegations from West Africa “will be subject to regular temperature and physical assessment” during the Games.
“We have been reassured by the health authorities that there have been no suspected cases and that the risk of infection is extremely unlikely,” the statement added.
The Youth Olympic Games are being held in Nanjing, China’s former capital, from August 16 to 28, and feature more than 3,700 competitors aged 15 to 18–some of whom hope to build toward a place in the 2016 Olympic Games to be hosted by Brazil.
The world’s worst-ever outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has killed 1,069 people so far and sparked international alarm, with several major airlines cutting flights to the region.
Guinea, at the epicenter of the epidemic, has declared a “health emergency” and imposed strict border controls, and the United States has ordered diplomats’ families evacuated from neighboring Sierra Leone, which is also affected. Liberia and Nigeria have also recorded cases.
The World Health Organization says the Ebola outbreak is being vastly underestimated and “extraordinary” measures are needed to contain the spread of the virus.