COVID-19 has robbed Bathurst of the chance of hosting the world's finest cross country athletes with the International Association of Athletics Federation confirming the world championships set down for next March will not go ahead.
Bathurst had hoped to welcome more than 700 competitors from 60 countries for the 2021 IAAF World Cross Country Championships at Mount Panorama but, after more than a year of preparations, ongoing restrictions on international travel have made it impossible.
Bathurst Regional Council was given the bad news via an email late on Thursday.
"The board of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the World Athletics Cross Country Championships has recommended the World Athletics Council postpone the World Athletics Cross Country Championships, which is currently due to be held in Bathurst, NSW on March 20, 2021," the email read.
"The recommendation is a result of biosecurity measures and travel restrictions currently in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Australia.
"Australian borders remain closed to international visitors."
A disappointed mayor Bobby Bourke said he understood the reasons behind the decision but it was still a significant blow.
"There's been a lot of work going on behind the scenes over the last 12 months or more to get the championships here but this is just another thing we have to put up with due to COVID-19," Cr Bourke said.
"They had been looking forward to coming to Bathurst and we were looking forward to welcoming them and, the way the economy has been, having that amount of visitors in the city would have been good for local businesses."
The email to council said the event was being postponed for now but Cr Bourke could not guarantee it would be held here at a later date.
"This is a world organisation so I just don't know, they might have plans to go somewhere else," he said.
"But hopefully they will still consider Bathurst. The Mount is an iconic location and I think that's what attracted them to the city in the first place, so who knows?"
Bathurst was announced as the intended host of the 2021 world championships in February 2019.
If the event went ahead, it would have been the first time the championships had been held in Australia and Bathurst would have become one of only a handful of cities in the southern hemisphere to host the event.
The planned week-long event was expected to inject around $2.6 million into the local economy.
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