Next year's Downer New Zealand Masters Games to be held in Whanganui will not be open to international athletes due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Whanganui (NZ) Master Games Trust has decided against allowing access to international athletes to put the health and safety of New Zealand participants first.
Downer New Zealand Masters Games company chairman Kevin Nicholson said the organising team was disappointed there would be no international participation, but understood why it was necessary.
"The health and safety for all those involved remains our priority," Nicholson said.
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New Zealand is currently under heavy border restrictions and based on the current situation it is unlikely international participants will be able to travel into the country to take part in the event, unless they are a citizen or permanent resident.
While the Government does have provisions to allow international athletes into New Zealand for sporting events, organisers believe the Government would be unlikely to approve an exemption for the Masters Games.
There is the possibility the Government will approve a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand in the coming months.
Should this occur, the trust will consider the risks involved and decide, regarding Australian participants taking part, at that time.
"However, these challenging times also makes the NZ Masters Games an even more critical opportunity for our community of participants, volunteers, sponsors, event organisers, and local businesses, to connect and build on their own well-being, physically and socially," Nicholson said.
The Downer New Zealand Masters Games is the largest annual multi-sport event in New Zealand, attracting more than 4000 participants in 56 different sports from across the country. The 2021 event will be held in Whanganui from February 5-14.