Olympics Dream Over for Iceland

The Iceland men’s national handball team saw its hopes for a berth at the 2024 Summer Olympics in France slip away last night. Despite beating Austria 26 to 24 in a pivotal game yesterday afternoon, an unfavourable result in another match meant that Iceland would not move on to the Olympics qualifiers in March.

Iceland’s team has not appeared in the Olympics since the 2012 London games. The team has historically been competitive on the international stage and handball remains very popular in Iceland. The team’s greatest success was the silver medal in the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

Victory in a must-win game

Iceland faced Austria in a must-win game yesterday, the last one of the main round. The team’s hopes of advancing to the knockout stage had already been dashed, but an important consolation prize loomed if everything went right; placement in the Olympics qualifiers.

Iceland saw its first half lead slip away in the second half as the offence stagnated. Scoreless for a 14 minutes stretch, Iceland was still able to secure the victory by two goals in the end. Both starting goalkeepers, Austria’s Constantin Möstl and Iceland’s Viktor Hallgrímsson, played superbly. Sigvaldi Björn Guðjónsson scored eight goals for Iceland and Aron Pálmarsson seven.

France too strong

With a victory in hand, Iceland’s team would need to wait for results from the match between France and Hungary. France had already secured a spot as one of the four teams to move on to the second round, while Hungary would stand a fighting chance with a win over France. A Hungary victory or a tie would have given Iceland a shot at the Olympics qualifiers. However, France proved too dominant and secured the victory.


Ischgl Authorities Ignored Warning from Iceland


According to correspondence and meeting minutes that news agency AFP has in their possession, the regional government of Tyrol in Austria ignored early warnings from Icelandic health authorities about the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the Austrian ski resort village Ischgl. The area later became a COVID-19 hotspot. Sixteen Icelanders are believed to have contracted the novel coronavirus in the town. Mbl.is reported first.

More than 6,000 tourists reportedly contracted SARS-CoV-2 in Ischgl, many of them spreading the infection further in their home countries. Tyrol authorities have repeatedly stated that their response to the spread of the virus was adequate and sufficient based on the information available at the time. The documents in AFP’s possessions show, however, that they knew of likely infections at certain bars and downplayed this knowledge in messages to the public.

When Icelanders who had been in Ischgl tested positive upon returning to Iceland in early March, Icelandic authorities contacted Austrian officials to warn them of the possible spread of the virus in the resort town. Rather than heeding Icelandic authorities’ warning, Austrian officials decided to focus on the comments of two of these Icelanders, who stated they may have been infected on the plane ride home. These comments later headlined a press release from authorities.

Four Austrian officials are now under investigation for possibly endangering the public with their response to the virus. Several lawsuits have also been fined in connection with COVID-19 cases that have been traced to Ischgl.