Aviemore Triathlon is called off due to imminent Covid restriction changes
Get a digital copy of the Strathspey Herald delivered straight to your inbox every week
A major sporting event due to take place this weekend in the strath has been called off because of imminent changes to be announced by the Scottish Government in the battle against coronavirus.
Up to 450 people had signed up for the Aviemore Triathlon at Glenmore Forest and Loch Morlich on Sunday.
Organisers Durty Events had confirmed to the Strathy earlier this week they had expected around 400 of those entered to turn up from across the country to take part.
But with Covid cases on the rise in Scotland and the UK, concerns had been growing locally about such a large scale event being staged in the strath.
It is understood that the organisers decided to call off the triathlon earlier this afternoon after advice from the Scottish Government on coronavirus changes about to be brought in.
Event organiser Paul McGreal told the Strathy: "The decision was forced by an imminent change in Scottish Government and Sportscotland guidelines.
"We understand an announcement is to be made at some point today with immediate implementation.
"These new guidelines will make it impossible to stage the Aviemore Triathlon."
Highland Council convener Bill Lobban had been one of those to express concerns despite the organisers pledging to make the event 'self-contained'.
The local councillor for Badenoch and Strathspey said: “Following concerns raised by Highland Council's elected members, the local community and the direct intervention of Scottish Government, the planned triathlon event in Aviemore this weekend has been cancelled.
"Now is simply not the time to be holding events such as this no matter how well organised they may be.
"I would advise the organisers to please return when things are back to normal and we will make you doubly welcome.
"This was quite simply the right event in the right place at the wrong time.”
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: "The council and partners had concerns about the event taking place due to the scale in the current context and were working with organisers to address these as best as possible.
"However, the Scottish Government has take decision to cancel the event and is reviewing event guidance today."
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned at lunchtime "hard but necessary" decisions on further Covid restrictions may need to be taken to prevent another full-scale lockdown,
She said the next few days would be 'critical' in deciding which steps would be taken to stop the spread of the virus and these included the possible introduction of more national restrictions.
Ms Sturgeon said: "Cases are rising quite rapidly. The percentage of tests is not as high as March but is rising. And the R number is now above one."
Concerns about the Aviemore Triathlon had been raised by Highland Council’s environmental health officials.
The organisers had stressed earlier this week they were adhering to Scottish Government, Triathlon Scotland and Sportscotland guidance.
Mr McGreal had highlighted that the entire triathlon was away from populated areas.
He said: “Our event is self-contained within Glenmore Forest so we are not finishing in the village centre. We are not in places where there is anybody.
“We are hidden away in the forest and not congregating in Aviemore so there is extremely limited potential for encounters during the triathlon itself.”
He also said: “We are operating under the notion of a group of one. There is no car sharing; they compete with a staggered start and they finish and then they go home.
“There are no spectators or prize-giving. We have an announcer on site to specifically tell people to go home.”