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Contigency plan in the works for Olympic trials after fire closes Montreal’s Big O pool

Swimming Canada says a contingency plan for the Olympic and Paralympic trials is in the works following the extended closure of Montreal’s Olympic pool.

The national trials — Swimming Canada’s selection meet for this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris — were scheduled for May 13 to 19 at the Olympic pool.

However, the Olympic Park announced Wednesday that the athletic sports complex at the Institut national du sport du Québec (INS Quebec) would remain closed for four to six months due to a fire outside the Olympic Stadium on March 21.

Swimming Canada says it intends to keep the same dates and is focused on holding the trials at an alternate location in the Montreal area.

“We know that day-by-day plans for an Olympic and Paralympic year are laid out months in advance. We are also aware that, with trials less than six weeks away, most participants have booked travel to, and accommodations in, Montreal,” acting Swimming Canada chief executive officer Suzanne Paulins said in a statement.

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“We are working hard on contingency plans to hold the event in Montreal on the scheduled dates of May 13-19.”

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The competition venue needs to have a 50-metre pool, adequate capacity for participants and spectators, and allow for broadcasting the event.

The governing body will meet with key partners in the coming days to decide the next steps and hopes to share a detailed plan next week.

“We know our athletes are resilient and adaptable, and so is our staff,” Paulins said. “We are doing our best to minimize disruption, and (are) confident in our ability to deliver a first-class swim meet that sets us up for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Although the fire caused no injuries, the Olympic Park said there was significant damage to the tower due to the infiltration of smoke and water from firefighters trying to extinguish the fire.

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Montreal’s Big ‘O’ stadium roof repair comes with $870M price tag

Other federations have also been affected and needed to find new places for athletes to continue preparing for the Games. Judo Canada quickly moved its training to the Ippon judo club in Montreal.

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“It would be lying to say there’s no impact,” Judo Canada coach Antoine Bouchard said. “We’re stepping out of our comfort zone. We’re used to training at INS, we were well-supported, and suddenly everything is turned upside down.

“But I think as soon as the problem arose, Judo Canada turned around to find the best possible solution for us to continue training with minimal impact. Our entire full-time group can train there. So that’s very good.”

Bouchard drew a parallel with the COVID-19 pandemic, which on a larger scale had forced the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

“With COVID, we had limited access to training partners and our facilities were inaccessible,” Bouchard said. “But I think Judo Canada adapted very quickly to find a temporary solution.”

The Paris Olympics run from July 26 to Aug. 11. The Paralympics follow from Aug. 28 to Sept. 8.

— With files from Tommy Thurber.

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