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Faster, higher, stronger - but no hugs Add to ...

The looming threat of the spread of the H1N1 flu virus will usher in a new era of etiquette among Canadian athletes at next year's Olympics in Vancouver.

Handshakes? Out. High-fives? No way. The cheek-to-cheek kiss? Forget it.

"You're supposed to pound fists with people now," said Bryce Davison, who with Jessica Dubé is one of Canada's medal hopefuls in pairs figure skating.

After a pause and a laugh, he adds: "It will be interesting."

Canadian athletes are being told to avoid traditional hand-to-hand contact to protect themselves from the H1N1 virus. In lieu, they're being told to fist-bump.

The order comes from Canadian Olympic Committee chief medical officer Bob McCormack, who also urges athletes to carry hand sanitizer in their battle against the flu.

Discussions about alternatives to the handshake began back in the spring. Some suggestions were a stretch, such as an elbow-to-elbow greeting that would form a V - for Vancouver - between two people's arms.

"I can reassure everyone we're not going to have any kissing police that will go around and say 'let's have some separation here,' " Dr. McCormack said.

"What we're saying is think about it."

Dr. McCormack likes to say that "the Olympics are where the viruses of the world come to meet," and the risk is compounded for the Vancouver Olympics Organizing Committee by the worldwide H1N1 flu outbreak. It's a serious issue in the host city.

"We're more actively promoting and raising awareness of the importance of vaccinations, regular handwashing, coughing into your sleeve and staying home if you're sick as successful prevention strategies," said Jack Taunton, chief medical officer for VANOC.

But for Mr. Davison, the fist-bump could be a bit awkward. He's been skating since he was six years old, and has difficulty envisioning himself fist-bumping senior officials, such as International Skating Union president Ottavio Cinquanta.

"How you can do a proper and firm fist-bump is beyond me," the 23-year-old Mr. Davison said.

"With people that are over 30 or 40, it's going to be a little weird ... If [Mr. Cinquanta]comes up to me and sticks out his fist, I guess I'll punch it."

Follow on Twitter: @josh_wingrove

 

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