Greek swimmers are protesting national restrictions on training right now due to COVID-19 regulations as cases are spiking for the second time in the Mediterranean nation.
Under the current restrictions, only 75 swimmers in the entire country are able to train, a huge blow not only to top talent outside of those 75 top swimmers, but also to any swimmers wanting to get in and train regardless of their Olympic chances.
On Friday, NC State alum and Greek record-holder Andreas Vazaios was one swimmer among many who posted a letter of protest on social media.
“After suspending for a long time the possibility for athletes of national interest to train, about 10 days ago the government allowed a selection of 400 athletes to return to their training in the water,” said top Greek backstroker Apostolos Christou, explaining the content of the above letter to SwimSwam Italia’s Aglaia Pezzato.
“They were again denied swimming on Wednesday. They have reduced the authorized numbers only to swimmers with possible Olympic chances for Tokyo. In addition, the coaches do not receive financial aid from the state.”
Andreas Vazaios, who is now continuing his studies in the United Kingdom after finishing up with NC State, shed more light on the situation.
“We only ask for a return to the previous situation, when even the athletes of clubs with ambitions could train,” said Vazaios. “While swimming is at a standstill, football and basketball have 1 to 5 new cases of COVID-19 positivity every week but this does not stop their training or their championship. No competitions of any kind have been organized for our sport in recent months.”
According to data from Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, Greece has had 203,978 cases of COVID-19 to date. The nation’s peak was in November, where new cases surpassed 3,000 daily, but they seem to be trending upwards in another wave– on March 3, Greece had 2,697 cases, their highest daily total since mid-November.
While cases are spiking, the daily death totals are not increasing nearly as rapidly; they’re about even with daily death totals in early November, before the country’s first major wave.
The protest letter has been reposted by many elite Greek athletes to gain visibility and attention. Greece has already named six swimmers and a relay to the Greek Olympic team for pool swimming: