Paris-Nice blocks spectator access to comply with French coronavirus rules

Paris-Nice organizer ASO is limiting spectator access to the race after a decree by the French government cancelled all public gatherings larger than 1,000 people.

Organizers of Paris-Nice on Monday announced a radical policy on spectator access that is aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

Access to the start and finish of each stage will be restricted to the general public, with a buffer zone being created within 100 meters of the winner’s podium and 300 meters of the finish line. Fans cannot enter this buffer zone.

“The organizers of Paris-Nice call upon spectators to observe these new rules even though they stand in contrast to cycling’s tradition of bringing riders and fans together,” read a statement from organizers.

The statement, released Monday, said the new rules will force the event to be held “behind closed doors.”

The decision came less than 24 hours after French President Emmanuel Macron announced a countrywide ban on public gatherings of more than 1,000 people. The only events that are exempt from the ban are protests, examinations, and public transportation. France’s municipal elections, set to take place on March 15, are also expected to carry on as scheduled.

The new measure follows actions taken by organizer ASO to limit the concentration of riders in staff in confined areas during the race. On March 8 ASO’s Christian Prudhomme told VeloNews that organizers had to scramble to find additional hotels for teams in an effort to have no more than two teams staying in each hotel.

Organizers also cancelled the traditional pre-race press conference, and said that there will be no customary handshakes, hugs, or kisses during the podium celebration after each stage.

Even post-stage interviews with the media have been cancelled.

Paris-Nice started on Sunday with a wet and rainy stage just south of Paris. Organizers believe the curb on spectators will bring the event inline with the government’s orders.

Other sporting events were cancelled or postponed. The French Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain and Strasbourg set for Saturday, March 7 was postponed. The Six Nations rugby match between Scotland and France was also postponed.

Organizers said the measures are being instituted to comply with the French Ministry of Health’s ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people.