LONDON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - The professional International Swimming League (ISL) will hold five weeks of racing behind closed doors in Budapest in October and November before a possible final in Tokyo in December, organisers said on Wednesday.
The league, bankrolled by Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Grigorishin, launched last year as a fast-paced competition with a cast of world and Olympic champions representing teams from Europe and the Americas.
Japan now also has a team, the Tokyo Frog Kings fronted by four-times Olympic breaststroke gold medallist Kosuke Kitajima, among 10 competing in season two.
Hubert Montcoudiol, head of ISL’s commercial department, told a Zoom news conference that the ‘solidarity camp’ would feature 320 athletes with racing broadcast live to more than 80 countries.
There will be five matches in October, starting on the 16th, and five in November before semi-finals from Nov. 19-22. Four teams will qualify for the final.
“We are discussing very closely with Japan, in Tokyo, to organise the final... Japan is joining ISL with a team this year so it would be fantastic to go there,” said Montcoudiol.
Hungary has closed its borders to foreigners since Sept. 1 to curb a rise in coronavirus cases but Montcoudiol said a comprehensive medical protocol would allow the swimmers to enter.
ISL technical director Apostolos Tsagkarakis said everyone travelling to Budapest would have to undergo two COVID-19 tests prior to departure and another on arrival.
More tests would be done 48 hours later before training could start. There would then be tests every five days.
Swimmers will stay in single rooms at hotels exclusively reserved for them on Margaret Island in the Danube.
Budapest had been due to host the European aquatics championships in May but they were postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic.
Tsagkarakis said the ISL would also implement a VAR (video assistant referee) system for matches with each coach able to challenge a disqualification.
There will also be ‘jackpot times’ allowing a team to ‘steal’ extra points for wins by a wide margin. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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