No spectators will be permitted at the International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine and Nordic World Ski Championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo and Oberstdorf respectively in response the coronavirus pandemic, it has been confirmed.
Both Organising Committees said they were hoping for different outcomes, but have now agreed to go ahead without fans present.
The FIS Alpine World Ski Championships are due to be staged in Cortina d'Ampezzo in Italy from February 9 to 21.
This is then scheduled to be followed by the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf in Germany from February 23 to March 7.
Italy and Germany have been hit hard by the global health crisis, with both countries reporting more than two million cases and many thousands of deaths.
With concerns growing over the emergence of new COVID-19 mutations, Germany yesterday announced an extension of its nationwide lockdown until mid-February.
A statement from Oberstdoft 2021 said it had planned to allow a limited number of fans to watch the cross-country, Nordic combined and ski jumping competitions, but a decision had now been taken by its Supervisory Board to not permit crowds due to "security reasons".
It’s official! 🚫 Bis zuletzt hatten wir darauf gehofft, zumindest einer reduzierten Anzahl an Ski-Fans ein Live-Erlebnis...Posted by Oberstdorf 2021 on Tuesday, 19 January 2021
Although the COVID-19 situation in Italy is showing signs of improvement, the country continues to report hundreds of deaths from the virus daily.
The world’s best Alpine skiers are set to compete across the downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom, Alpine combined and parallel giant slalom disciplines, but no spectators will be allowed at the Italian resort to see the action unfold.
A team event is also scheduled.
Despite the news, the organisers of Cortina 2021 insist the "show must go on" and that they are ready to push ahead with "Plan B".
"The moment we all hoped to avoid has arrived," a statement on Cortina 2021’s website read.
"The Technical Committee has given its verdict: The Cortina 2021 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships will go ahead, but without live audiences.
"Although we were always hoping for a different outcome, the news did not catch us totally unprepared - the show must go on.
"During these weeks of uncertainty, we have been working on our Plan B and, step by step we have created a virtual world where we will soon be ready to welcome you.
"We will bring the World Championships to your home, we will bring you on to our slopes, we will bring you up close and personal with the athletes, our speakers will bring you to the heart of the action, and we will take you behind and in front of the stage of the largest international event organized by Italy in the COVID era.
"We need you, your enthusiasm, your cheer, your applause, and all your emotional support."
Italian officials had previously requested the event be moved back to 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic, only for the FIS to confirm it would go ahead in 2021 as planned following talks.
Cortina d'Ampezzo was the sole bidder to host the 2021 edition of the World Championships, having been unsuccessful in its attempts to host the 2013 and 2019 editions.
The resort is due to stage the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, along with Milan.
Oberstdorf will stage the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships for a third time this year, having previously done so in 1987 and 2005.