Easier said than done. The biosecurity bubble promised by the Mexican Taekwondo Federation (FMTKD) for the G4 Pan American Championship burst just at arriving at the hotel, despite administrative efforts to contain it.
Without being an expert in sanitary, biosafety or hygiene issues, the MASTKD team identified shortcomings that put the all the participannt´s at risk and that exposed the need to carry out a Pan American tournament assigned in a rush so as not to enrage the MNA´s going to the Olympics and thus thirsty for ranking points.
We go from the general to the specific
The bubble that the FMTKD boasted so much – and in which we all believed – vanished just when we entered the lobby.
Although the delegations were forced to stay in the same place by booking only through the FMTKD, the truth is that, in the event on June 3 and 4, the athletes shared hotel with tourists from all over the planet, unconnected to the event.
It would be mean not to say that the hotel ensured at all times compliance with the sanitary regulations with signs, gel dispensers and staff who sanitized the hands of the majority and take the temperature; but it would also be mean not to say that the complex was not exclusively for Taekwondo – as it was publicly said.
The bubble that FMTKD promised in the end was mimicked in an ecosystem with drunkards, smokers and tourists seeking the ecstasy of Cancun’s stress among the hubbub of the snack bar, the internal bus, corridors, waiting areas, gym, swimming pool, buffet and , really, anywhere on the hotel.
It took 15 months for Panamérica to have an official event, but everything has been put at risk , even the Olympic participations. Worrying? The continental authorities themselves turned a blind eye and let the event continue.
The broken bubble had a crack so wide, but so wide, that we, MasTKD team, are even part of the social experiment and lack of controls to isolate the delegations from the rest of mortals. We have shared the hotel facilities with the teams; even, the organization did not make the registration process with us because “we are tourists”.
Perhaps – the organizational failure to give press accreditation to us – was due to the cersorship to freedom of the press the FMTKD has implemented, which out of the blue stated guidelines for the prohibition of media in competition áreas; guidelines that the Sports Institute and the Government of Quintana Roo did not find in their files. Both entities agreed that accreditations are at the discretion of the organization. That is to say: they did not want us here.
It is worth clarifying that we decided to continue with the press work because all the MASTKD staff present at the evento have negative CRP within the time requested by the organization. We did it with face masks and with constant sanitizing to minimize the risk. In addition, it is the step to follow to corroborate what many complained about, but are reluctant to speak in cameras to avoid political retaliation: they are coaches, athletes, delegates, presidents.
We have registered as tourists, outside the tournament, on our own; but we have been in all places interacting with the protagonists. It’s simple: once the check-in was done, the promised control of keeping the delegations in bubble did not exist. The teams are interacting with with us, “tourists”.
Was the organization’s $ 28 antigen test really necessary? In order to register, the teams had to present a Negative PCR issued in their country of origin and undergo the quick FMTKD test.
What was never said is that once outside the registration area, the attendees would be mixed with people from all over the planet who did not have as a requirement to undergo a medical test -example of this is us-, because Mexico does not require it to enter its territory. What is the use of entering the hotel clean if I am constantly exposed to being infected in any part of the hotel because I was not separated from the rest of the tourists who only declared on paper that they did not present any symptoms?
The situation did not go unnoticed to the teams that, for fear of reprisals, I insist, have not talked. At least five members from different countries spoke off the record with MASTKD and described that the capacity in the registration area was summarized in: “a site without minimum distances, with many people filling out a form in school-like desks and where in five minutes they let you know if you could continue or not ”. In addition, they expressed their annoyance in many parts of the processes, especially in the payment process.
The accreditation situation became an issue because apparently a group of competitors from the same country was positive for COVID-19 and they were together with other teams filling out the forms. Afterwards, they were isolated, but, did the teams who shared with the infected group undergo a third test? Based on the stories of those who interacted with that team, the reply to that question is “no”.
Money comes and goes
Although since the beginning of the pandemic the World Tourism Organization, health authorities such as WHO and financial institutions recommended reducing cash transactions and implementing digital platforms or touchless terminals for payments, the FMTKD seems to like cash more.
According to comments expressed by different technical delegates of national teams and presidents of national federations, the hotel charges, Covid-19 tests, transportation and other expenses had to be paid in ‘cash’. The cases when they accepted bank transferences were little.
We even learned about the case of a national federation that had to pay taxes on its cash in customs, because the amount exceeded US $ 10,000.
In short: only cash payment was allowed on the registration site. No dataphone was used, nor was there the possibility of paying through one. Is there something behind the fact that money passes much from hand to hand?
Media pressure or poor communication?
According to what was discussed in the Technical Congress, the event would be like this: the athletes would warm up at their host hotel, they would be notified of the approximate time of the competition, they had to leave the hotel towards the venue, which is just over a kilometer within the same complex; show up, fight and return.
There would be, in theory, two methods of getting to the venue: on foot or by internal bus – wonderful, by the way. The problem? The bus takes about 15 minutes to make the circuit; tourists use the bus, and if the competitor does not pay attention, he can go in the wrong direction.
Faced with the potential risk of disqualification for not showing up, the competitors and coaches gathered in the corridor ‘ad portas’ of the waiting area. Athletes lying on the ground, without distancing, without a warm-up zone and eager to compete gradually filled the outskirts. (See tour video)
When the MASTKD Team showed up and began recording the scene, it took five minutes to set up a room and have the athletes get in. Despite the fact that this possibility was ruled out at the technical congress. Was it media pressure or poor communication?
Once that room set up, the athletes lined up to get in. However, the organization left aside two details: hand sanitizing and body temperature measurement.
While it is true, they were sprayed with sanitizer; the first group got in without sanitizing their hands although many had been lying on the floor and without the temperature control. The situation was corrected almost 40 minutes later.
Allegedly, the waiting area – and the last-minute warm up area – would be only for the athletes who competed. However, access was not controlled and we found that in the two days of the tournament this was not fulfilled.
This measure´s objective was to maintain the minimum capacity in each venue, but evidently that was not monitored.
Whoops… it seem´s that Mexico’s prevention measures are a little different from those of the rest of the planet.
Unconnected people to the event, in the waiting area
Augmented video. Originally the frame is made to take the face of a competitor who became a Pan American champion.
Perhaps this is the riskiest of all the points
Although we tried to make accreditation for a photographer, President Raymundo González avoided collaborating at all costs; the same thing happened with technical delegate In Seon Kim.
The organization’s argument was that due to government measures – which were later independently proven to be false – the press was not going to be allowed in.
However, in an interview carried out in front of the entrance door it is found that one of the members of the WTPA High Performance Committee got in to the waiting area with his partner. Watch the video to chech (zoomed). Something contradictory that goes against the FMTKD guidelines. Isn´t it ?