The coronavirus outbreak continues to have an impact on the sporting schedule as some of 2020’s biggest events come into view.
A range of sports have had to take action to prevent the spread of the virus, with postponements hitting the Guinness Six Nations, Formula One and Serie A among others.
With spectacles such as Euro 2020, the Olympics and golf’s majors on the horizon, the PA news agency takes a sport-by-sport look at the impact of the coronavirus.
Gianni Infantino, the president of the sport’s world governing body FIFA, said on Friday: “If games have to be postponed or played without spectators until it is over, then we have to go through that.” Games during the March international break could come under scrutiny, including England’s friendly against Italy on March 27. Five top-flight fixtures in Italy, which is also set to host four matches at Euro 2020, were postponed over the weekend. Atalanta fans who travelled south to Lecce for their match, one of just two Serie A games to go ahead on Sunday, were checked for symptoms of the virus on their way into the stadium. Monday’s Serie A match between Sampdoria and Verona in Genoa was also called off as the Italian top flight called an emergency assembly to discuss the impact the postponements are having on the fixture list. Games in the top two divisions of Swiss football over the weekend were postponed, as were matches in Japan and South Korea. The Scottish football authorities have announced a joint approach to addressing the implications of the outbreak. A response group including Scottish Football Association chief executive Ian Maxwell – among others – met on Monday morning, less than 24 hours after Scotland’s first coronavirus case was confirmed. Maxwell said: “The response group will co-ordinate activity daily to ensure Scottish football takes the necessary measures to safeguard the wellbeing of everyone involved in the national game amid the outbreak.”
Olympics and Paralympics
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach told the Japanese media last week that preparations for this summer’s Games in Tokyo were continuing and told athletes to go “full steam ahead” with their training. He said his organisation was “fully committed” to the Olympics starting in Tokyo on schedule on July 24. IOC member Dick Pound had earlier said that a decision on whether the Games could go ahead or not would need to be taken by May, but stressed the event would only be cancelled if it was felt that to do so would pose a serious threat to the health of athletes and spectators.
Ireland’s Six Nations match against Italy in Dublin on March 7 has been postponed and tournament chiefs are attending a pre-scheduled World Rugby summit in Paris on Monday where the remaining five fixtures will be discussed. England’s trip to Rome on March 14 is the biggest concern due to the escalating crisis in northern Italy.
Grand Prix organisers insist the opening two rounds of the Formula One season in Australia and Bahrain will go ahead as scheduled. The season-opening Australian Grand Prix is due to take place on March 15, with the majority of F1 personnel set to travel to Melbourne at the latter end of this week. Circuit officials for the Bahrain Grand Prix – which is set to take place a week
after the opening round in Melbourne on March 22 – are confident their race will also go ahead. F1 personnel who have visited high-risk countries within 14 days of their arrival in the Gulf Kingdom will be subjected to an extensive screening process. The Chinese Grand Prix, which had been due to take place in Shanghai on April 19, was postponed last month. F1 bosses say they are continuing to monitor the situation.
The opening race of the MotoGP season, the Grand Prix of Qatar, was cancelled on Sunday due to the travel restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. With immediate effect, passengers arriving in Doha on direct flights from Italy, or those having been in Italy in the last two weeks, will be taken into quarantine for 14 days. That would impact several teams and riders and led organisers to cancel practice, qualifying and the race itself for the MotoGP class, which were scheduled to take place from March 6-8. On Monday, the second race on this year’s calendar – the Thailand Grand Prix, scheduled for March 22 – was also postponed, with organisers evaluating when the event could go ahead.
Several events in Asia have already been postponed and Italy’s Lorenzo Gagli tested negative for the virus before being allowed to compete in last week’s Oman Open. The European Tour said on Sunday that the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which gets under way on Thursday, was, as things stand, due to go ahead as scheduled. With San Francisco told to prepare for a potential outbreak by mayor London Breed on Tuesday, the PGA of America said it was “carefully monitoring the situation” ahead of May’s US PGA Championship at Harding Park in the city. Chief executive Martin Slumbers said on Tuesday that the R&A is keeping a “watching brief” in relation to July’s Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
Fears of two cases of the coronavirus at the UAE Tour saw the race cancelled with two stages left and all riders, including Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish, put under lockdown. Dane Michael Morkov had already left the race for the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin, where he was confined to his hotel room, but he was freed to race on Friday after the two individuals at the heart of the UAE scare tested negative.
A number of ATP Challenger Tour events scheduled to take place in China in March and April have been cancelled, while the final of the Challenger in Bergamo, Italy, last month was also called off. “We are liaising with our respective tournaments and local authorities where ATP Tour and ATP Challenger Tour events are played, with the health and safety of staff, players and fans as our top priority,” an ATP spokesperson said. World governing body the International Tennis Federation said it was closely monitoring the virus outbreak and was “prepared to take any necessary measures based on expert advice”. The Davis Cup qualifier between Japan and Ecuador in Miki on March 6-7 will be played behind closed doors, while China have withdrawn from their Davis Cup World Group I play-off against Romania on the same dates. The WTA has been contacted for comment on its own approach to the outbreak.
The World Indoor Championships, which had been due to take place in Nanjing in China this month, have been called off. The Hong Kong Marathon – due to take place on February 8 – was also cancelled.
The Ireland boxing squad cut short a pre-Olympic qualifier training camp in Italy as a precautionary measure last week, following an outbreak of the virus in the country. Meanwhile, all boxing shows scheduled for March in Japan have been cancelled.
The Badminton World Federation has not yet made any adjustments to its Olympic qualification rules despite the cancellation of some tournaments in which ranking points were available. The German Open (March 3-8), Polish Open (March 26-29) and Vietnam International Challenge (March 24-29) are the latest tournaments to be postponed or cancelled after the China Masters (February 25-March 1) was called off last month. The BWF has said not enough tournaments have yet been hit for changes to be made because different players could be affected either positively or negatively in the rankings. It will continue to monitor the situation in consultation with health authorities.
The £1million China Open, scheduled to start in Beijing at the end of March, has been cancelled.
The World Short Track Speed Skating Championships, scheduled to take place in Seoul this month, have been called off.
The World Triathlon Series event scheduled for March 5-7 in Abu Dhabi was delayed. Event organisers said they hoped to reschedule the event to take place later in March or April.
Yanqing was set to host a round of the FIS World Cup over February 15-16, but the event was cancelled by the governing body amid the growing concerns. The World Cup finals, which are scheduled to take place in northern Italy this month, will reportedly be staged without any fans in attendance.