For the first time since World War-II, the prestigious spelling bee tournament, which has been dominated by Indian-Americans over the years, has been canceled for 2020 in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
The competition, which is only open to students in elementary and middle school, will return on June 1, 2021. However, the eighth-graders who qualified this year for their last try at the national title won’t be able to participate next year, spelling bee officials said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Our hearts go out to the spellers who won’t get their final shot at winning because of the pandemic and the difficult decisions it is prompting us to make. They are now part of a widely expanding group of children and adults who are missing out on opportunities due to the coronavirus,” said Paige Kimble, executive director of the Bee.
Organizers of the Scripps National Spelling Bee canceled the event citing “no clear path to safely set a new date in 2020”.
The action is due to the ongoing concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus and uncertainty around when public gatherings will be possible or advisable, they said in a statement.
The decision follows the Bee’s announcement on March 20 that it was suspending the national finals with hopes to reschedule.
The only other time the spelling bee, an annual event since 1925, was canceled was from 1943 to 1945 because of World War II.
“Our thoughts immediately go to our spellers and their families. The students have dedicated time and effort to their passion for learning. They should be proud of all they have accomplished by winning spelling bees at the classroom, school, and regional level,” Kimble said.
Nevertheless, our first priority has to be to the health and well-being of our spellers and their families and the hundreds of staff and spectators that come together for Bee Week,” she said.
Last year, after running out of words that were challenging enough for the contestants, the Spelling Bee ended in a eight-way tie resulting in an unprecedented octo-champs.
Six of the champions were Indian-Americans Rishik Gandhasri, Saketh Sundar, Shruthika Padhy, Sohum Sukhatankar, Abhijay Kodal and Rohan Raja. The two others were Erin Howard and Christopher Serrao.