Covid-19 forces cancellation of AIMS Games school sports tournament for 2020

AIMS MEDIA

The AIMS Games in Tauranga will not take place in 2020 due to Covid-19 complications.

The biggest intermediate school sports tournament in the southern hemisphere has fallen victim to Covid-19, with the AIMS Games being cancelled for 2020.

Organisers on Tuesday made the decision to pull the pin on the annual Tauranga-hosted event, slated for September 5-11, due to the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s the first time since AIMS’ inception in 2004 that it has had to be cancelled. Not only will it leave a host of disappointed youngsters, but it will strike a huge economic blow to the region as well.

AIMS GAMES

Record economic returns for AIMS Games. AIMS GAMES

The 2019 tournament, which was livestreamed on Stuff, featured upwards of 11,500 competitors from more than 365 schools around New Zealand, Asia and the Pacific, across 23 different sports, and it pumped a whopping $6.5 million into Bay of Plenty’s economy, with 23,775 unique attendees for the week, and 74,787 visitor nights for the region.

READ MORE:
* AIMS Games school sports tournament hangs in the balance
* Record $6.5m economic returns for AIMS Games in Tauranga
* Rugby prodigy Lukas Halls has eyes on professional career after being scouted at 12

However, health considerations had to be paramount, and despite the country’s progress towards Covid-19 level 1, and the tournament still more than three months away, organisers wanted to give as much certainty as possible.

Registrations weren’t to close until June 10, though the reality was only 60 schools had so far signed up, compared to 190 at the same stage last year.

There will be no jumping for joy this year for the South Wellington Intermediate netball team.
Jamie Troughton/DSCRIBE MEDIA

There will be no jumping for joy this year for the South Wellington Intermediate netball team.

Tournament director Vicki Semple said it was the hardest decision the AIMS Games trustees had ever had to make, but that hosting the event this year had simply become “untenable”.

“We’ve spent the past two months going through every possible scenario and agonising over what this decision means to our athletes, our schools, our supporters, our sponsors, local businesses and our contractors,” Semple said in a statement.

“The stark reality is that we just couldn’t confidently host more than 11,000 athletes in September, while upholding the high standards of wellbeing we’ve set in previous years.

AIMS Games tournament director Vicki Semple said hosting this year's event had become "untenable".
Jamie Troughton/DSCRIBE MEDIA

AIMS Games tournament director Vicki Semple said hosting this year’s event had become “untenable”.

“And this pandemic is so much bigger than sport – not only have we had to weigh up things like training and preparation lead-ins for athletes, but we’ve considered the likely economic impact on families and how prepared they are to send their kids away for a week with uncertainty hanging over them.

“There are still just so many unknowns and no-one really knows how this is all going to play out.”

Feedback from schools, along with advice from health authorities, School Sport New Zealand and national sporting bodies had also been pivotal in making the decision on AIMS. Winter sports programmes are also only just being devised, when schools are normally starting trials or selecting teams for the event.

AIMS Games Trust chairperson and Otumoetai Intermediate School principal Henk Popping said they had had to balance the hopes and aspirations of young athletes against the overall benefit to Tauranga, and the country as a whole.

“We all know how important sport is to our society and the incredible benefits that it provides but given the bigger picture, we felt running the tournament this year would create more risks and uncertainty, rather than rewards, and we certainly don’t want to put any more pressure on schools and families,” he said.

Semple told Stuff the idea of hosting the event later in 2020 was not an option, because their AIMS dates are locked in two years in advance, always running straight after the national secondary school tournament week, and avoiding a clash with summer codes, along with venue and accommodation bookings.

The AIMS cancellation follows the likes of high school rugby, football and netball, who earlier this month canned tournaments scheduled for later in the year.