(Reuters) - The success of the World Triathlon Championship Series and Para Series under bio-secure bubbles in the Japanese city of Yokohama is further proof that elite events can be held safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the sport's global governing body said.
The races, which took place last week - less than 10 weeks before the July 23-Aug. 8 Tokyo Olympics - were the first to be held in the championship in 2021, with 285 participants and coaches from 36 countries.
World Triathlon said that a total of 1,200 COVID-19 tests were carried out for all athletes, support staff and those inside the bubble, and all came back negative.
It added that the events delivered without a glitch showed that Japan is ready to host the Games.
"We're delighted with the way the WTCS Yokohama was realised, and the incredible racing made all of the hard work behind the scenes worth it," World Triathlon chief Marisol Casado said in a statement https://www.triathlon.org/news/article/wtcs_yokohama_bubble_and_protocols_hailed_a_success_as_world_triathlon.
World Triathlon arranged special visas and ensured COVID-secure transport and accommodation for participants with training limited to specified groups in carefully prepared environments.
With nobody allowed out of the bubble, 4,275 meals were delivered to the doors of participants across the week.
"I want to congratulate the athletes for performing to such a high level under such unorthodox circumstances," Casado said. "It was never going to be straightforward, and there were challenges along the way.
"The spirit and resilience of the World Triathlon family shone through again... just as it has done throughout this pandemic, allowing the sport and the athletes to take the headlines."
Norway's Kristian Blummenfelt won the gold on Saturday after American Taylor Knibb crossed the line first in the women's race to secure her place at the Games.
The International Olympic Committee reassured an anxious Japan on Wednesday that the Games would be safe for athletes and the host community, amid mounting opposition to the Games and fears it will fuel a spike in COVID-19 cases.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)