A Model for Covid-Safe Open Water Events
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.
Pedro Rego Monteiro is tirelessly creative.
Nominated for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, Monteiro continued to lead his event organizing team for Rei e Rainha do Mar (King and Queen of the Sea) under strict COVID-19 safety protocols. But it was not easy at all.
He acknowledged the difficulties facing every race director, but Brazil was one of the more heavily hit countries in the world. “As the good news started to arrive with the vaccine, possible new medicines and the like, there seems to be many reasons to be positive about 2021.
We organized and hosted a stage of the King and Queen event that would have been sponsored by Shell, but we had to cancel the event one week before it was supposed to happen on March 22nd. Unfortunately, close to 4,000 people had already signed up.
After that happened, we spent the next eight months researching all the information that was out there about the correct safety protocols. The information was not consistent at all. The event that we put up in Búzios was the 17th version we came up with. Changing the protocols meant that we had to change the arena setup, the deployment of the event staff, the demands from suppliers, and so many more details. Our team worked very hard to make it happen. We also had to decrease the number of participants allowed, but we worked with a limit of 2020 spots – that were all filled.”
The event included a 2 km/4 km Beach Run, 8 km Beach & Trial Run, 1 km swim + 2 km beach run Biathlon, 200m/400m/500m/1 km/2 km/4 km swims, 10 km Travessia de Natação, and 50m/100m/300m/600m kids runs.
Monteiro explained the event, “Among the many changes, a few things are worth mentioning:
- Besides the regular ocean swim distances (1 km, 2 km and 4 km), we launched a 500m race. We identified through surveys that we conducted last year that many people that participated in other events that we organize would join the King and Queen series if there was a shorter race.
- We had over 60 lifeguards working in the ocean.
- We had over 200 kids, ages 4 to 14 in our beach running and swimming events who took part in the event.
- We did dozens of starts with never more than 100 people in each heat in order to avoid participants being too close to each other.
- We marked the sand to show where the swimmers had to stand prior to the start. The markings were really well respected by all the swimmers, although honestly we weren’t sure if they would before the event.
- We collected all their masks prior to the start and handed them a new mask when they crossed the finish line.
- The arena was sanitized a few times throughout the event.
- We had alcohol dispensers spread throughout the arena.
- We measured every participant’s temperature upon entering the arena.
- Only participants were allowed into the arena.
- For the first time, we did a live broadcast on our own of the event. We did this to motivate friends and family to stay home and to add more value to the sponsor (ENEL). Over 6,000 people watched the broadcast that lasted over 5 hours. Of course, not everyone saw the whole thing, naturally.
- We invited a team of social influencers (Patrick Winkler, whose SWIM Channel was voted as the 2012 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year was among them) to stay in a beautiful house and generated content throughout the weekend.
- We had a partner develop a game for kids in which the character had to collect trash from the beach and place it in the right color recycling bin. The objectives are to, of course, to get kids into proper waste management and also attract them to the sport through a media that is very familiar to them (games).
- We tried to meet several of the United Nation’s Sustained Development Goals (SDGs) in the project that took a lot of work.
- One very positive statistic as a result of the event: over a month after the Rei e Rainha event was held, there was not a single case of COVID transmission by any participant in the event.
Steven Munatones, who has participated in several Rei e Rainha do Mar events, was especially impressed with the Effect Sport team this year, “With its economy still trying to recover from a deep recession, Brazil became one of the hardest hit countries by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a double punch to overcome, but Pedro and his team found a way to continue the largest and most popular ocean swimming series in Brazil, the Rei e Rainha do Mar that he founded in 2013. They found a way to responsibly stage the event under strict safety protocols. Everyone adhered to the strict face masking and social distancing rules.“
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