Universiade officials fear more MERS defections

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Universiade officials fear more MERS defections

Summer Universiade organizers in Gwangju are becoming concerned the Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak might discourage star athletes from competing.

Russia’s Tass reported over the weekend that world No. 1 rhythmic gymnast Margarita Mamun and the country’s artistic gymnastics team decided not to participate in the Summer Universiade, which runs from July 3 to 14, because of MERS.

According to the news agency, Mamun, 19, said on Sunday she will skip the global university sports competition after winning the gold medal in hoop at the European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Mamun won four gold medals - all-round, hoop, clubs and ribbon - at the 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia.

In addition, the University Sports Federation of Hong Kong said 27 of its athletes will not travel to Korea due to the risk of MERS infection. Hong Kong originally decided to send a 100-member delegation, but allowed each athlete to decide whether to compete.

Taiwan is expected to announce its decision on participating on Tuesday.

Organizers said that despite concerns about MERS, 13,244 athletes and officials from 145 countries had registered as of Sunday, surpassing the record number who took part in the 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan.

In order to prevent infection during the games, organizers say they are prepared to protect athletes from arrival to departure. At a press conference last week, Yoon Jang-hyun, Gwangju mayor and head of the organizing committee, said measures will include delegation-only transportation and a 24-hour-a-day hospital at the Athletes Village.

In addition, organizers said representatives from the World Health Organization and International University Sports Federation Medical Committee will be on-site around the clock.

Saudi Arabia, the country where MERS was first reported, will not participate at the Universiade because of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. However, Iran, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Jordan plan to send delegations to Gwangju.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]
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