2020 European Championships Still Up in the Air; No Qualifying Events Scheduled

European countries are struggling to reopen to the public in the wake of national shutdowns over COVID-19. With respect to swimming, athletes in most countries have been unable to train, let alone compete, since early- to mid-March.

On March 20, LEN, the European governing body for aquatic sports, announced the postponement of the 2020 European Aquatics Championships that were originally scheduled to be held May 11-24 in Budapest. LEN president Paolo Barelli was in favor of moving the event to August 17-30, but LEN has yet to announce new dates for the multi-sport aquatic event. LEN, together with British Swimming, also announced the 2020 European Junior Swimming Championships, originally set to take place in Aberdeen in July, would be rescheduled to a later date.

Other major European sporting events have been either canceled (e.g., various marathons, the 2020 Wimbledon Championships) or postponed (e.g., the Euro 2020 soccer tournament will now take place in 2021) because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Individual European countries have canceled or postponed their selection meets for the 2020 European Aquatics Championships. Here is the roundup of where various countries stand today:


The French Swimming Federation (FFN) announced on April 16 that all competitive activities in its five disciplines (swimming, open water, water polo, diving, and artistic swimming) would be halted until at least June 30. The French National Championships, originally postponed from mid-April until the last week of June, might take place in the fall, but that will depend on the international calendar. The Junior National Championships have been canceled altogether. The FFN is studying the possibility of restarting water polo league matches in July.

In other French sports, the start date of the three-week Tour de France bicycle race has been postponed indefinitely, as has the rest of the professional soccer season. The French Open tennis tournament has been rescheduled from late May to September 20-October 4.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Wednesday, April 15 that Germany’s federal and state governments had agreed to extend through May 3 the contact restrictions that had been in place since mid-March. Schools are supposed to reopen on May 4 but mainly for graduating students so they can take their exit exams. Some businesses (shops with sales areas of less than 800 square meters, car dealers, bicycle shops, and bookstores) are also expected to open on May 4. However, large-scale events such as live sporting events, trade fairs, festivals and other events that gather large number of people, are banned until at least August 31. It has not yet been decided if soccer matches will be held behind closed doors to finish the Bundesliga season underway.

On March 13, the German Swimming Federation (DSV) had announced that all DSV events would be cancelled, taking away any opportunity for German swimmers to qualify for the Olympic Games, European Championships, or European Junior Championships.


Sándor Wladár, president of the Hungarian Swimming Association (MÚSZ), recently extended the ban of national team activities until April 27. “Violation of the presidential instruction constitutes a disciplinary offense,” he said, adding that MÚSZ would not finance national team operations until that date.

The 2020 European Aquatics Championships were to be held in the Hungarian capital from May 11-24.


On Friday, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte announced that the country’s quarantine measures would be extended until May 3rd. Italy has been the hardest-hit country in Europe and the first to order its residents indoors. It is beginning to see a flattening of the curve. As such, Italian sports minister Vincenzo Spafadora followed the Conte announcement by saying he believes training and competition for the country’s elite athletes can resume on May 4th – if the county continues to socially distance effectively.


During the second week of March, the Polish Swimming Federation (PZP) made a series of declarations canceling swimming, water polo, and artistic swimming events. What began with the Arena Polish Grand Prix in Warsaw was later expanded to include all competitions on the PZP calendar, including the Polish Championships which was suspended until further notice. The federation canceled training sessions and camps and repatriated athletes training abroad, including athletes and coaches of the Junior National Team in water polo who had been in Berlin.

The PZP has yet to announce new dates for Polish Championships.


On March 19, the All-Russian Swimming Federation (WFTU) postponed the Russian Swimming Championships indefinitely, proposing in its place a “training event” without spectators for the country’s elite swimmers. On April 17, the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation announced a proposal to amend the general principles and criteria used in selecting national team athletes, allowing input from the coaching councils of the All-Russian Sports Federations. The proposal, which has been posted online for public review, states [from Google Translate] “Athletes who have not fulfilled the established criteria for forming lists of candidates for sports teams of the Russian Federation by sports in accordance with clause 8, if one of the competitions is canceled, the reasons for which were force majeure circumstances, as a result of which the athletes did not participate in such a competition, are included in the lists of candidates Idatov to the sports teams of the Russian Federation in sports by decision of the coaching council of the respective sport.”


Spain has been on national lockdown since March 15 and is planning to remain so until April 29, as we reported on Tuesday. On Monday, Spain began allowing certain non-essential services – activity includes health, security and telecommunication services; construction services; cleaning, surveillance, and maintenance services; public transport; and the judiciary – to begin operating again.

Restaurants, gymnasiums, training centers, and leisure services, however, are still not allowed to reopen to the public. Some Spanish elite sports teams, such as the soccer team Real Sociedad, attempted to resume their training but the Spanish sports minister Irene Lozano intervened in order to prevent that from happening.

United Kingdom

On April 15, British Swimming announced revisions to their open water swimming selection policy for the Tokyo Olympics. A month ago, they canceled the 2020 British Swimming Championships, the meet that serves as the nation’s Olympic qualifier. On April 2, they put off Euro Juniors, saying, “Consultation is on-going with LEN as to whether a suitable date to rearrange the championships can be found in 2021, however, it is not possible to name a date at the current time. British Swimming will communicate an update as soon as one is available, but at this present time the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone in the aquatics community is our number one priority.”

In other sports, English Premier League soccer matches have been suspended until at least April 30.


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About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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