Iconic Kiwi sports events face uphill battle

New Zealand's Ocean Swim Series boss is seething over COVID-19 restrictions that could put events in jeopardy.

Now 14 years in the running, the races have attracted thousands of competitive and recreational swimmers, becoming one of the country's premier outdoor sporting events.

For more than a decade, Scott Rice has been the brains behind the event, but admits preparing for this summer has been an immense challenge.

He's gone to extreme lengths to organise a COVID-19-friendly series in 2020/21, but fears that still may not be enough.

"We had to get advice from an epidemiologist about the risk in the water and the need for swimmers to social distance," Rice tells Newshub.

Rice says he's doing all he can, but it hasn't been easy.

"It hasn't been clear," he notes. "Restaurants have been given prescriptive ways to operate and the events industry has just been left as a mass gathering. 

"So we, as an industry, just need more clarity about what we can do."

And he's not the only one.

The Auckland Marathon faces a different challenge.

"Our event is too big," race director Dave Beech tells Newshub. "Some smaller events may be able to create mini bubbles and split fields up, but our events are just too big."

The restrictions have already forced the cancellations of marathons in Christchurch, Hawke's Bay and Wellington. The fates of Auckland and Queenstown events will be decided in the coming weeks.

And the cost of cancellation doesn't come cheap.

"It's a significant six-figure sum," Beech confirms. "We're talking 10,000 people."

Adds Rice: "It does take its toll and if people like myself, who are professionally in this game, decide it's too high risk, there'll be less events for people to attend."

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