Finnmarksløpet sled dog race cancelled over COVID-19 fears

The race was to have marked its 40th anniversary this year.

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - February 25, 2021
Dog sledding with the sun just above the horizon in freezing cold Finnmark. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

Europe’s premier long-distance sled dog race, Finnmarksløpet, will be canceled this year because of concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, race organizers said in a press release last week.

“The guidelines in connection with the pandemic make clear that large events bringing together participants from several municipalities and different regions of the country are not recommended,” the release said.

The race, which covers some 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) in Northern Norway between Alta and Kirkenes and back, was to have celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2021.

But Norway has some of the strictest entry rules in Europe, with borders practically being closed since January 29 to all foreigners not living in the country, or specialist workers and employees within health care professions. Several cases of new coronavirus variants have been detected after the new year and authorities fear a worsening of the breakout.

Last year, the Finnmark race had participants from five countries. For 2021, 94 participants had signed up for the start in the full 1,200-kilometer race (14 dogs), as well as the shorter 600-kilometer (8 dogs), and the 200-kilometer junior-class (6-dogs) races.