By Georgia Keetch
Dozens of international sport events have been cancelled or postponed around the world amid an outbreak of a new type of coronavirus. The pathogen’s effect has been felt across a range of sports – from athletics, rugby and golf to football, tennis and motorsports.
The epidemic, which began in China in late December, has plunged the global sporting calendar into disarray and cast a shadow over preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Qualifiers for the Summer Games in Japan are among a growing list of competitions either pushed back or relocated because of the virus. The virus has now infected more than 90,000 people and killed 3,000, the vast majority in China. Some governments responded to the outbreak by banning travel to and from China and denying entry to foreign nationals who had visited the country. The Tokyo Marathon, which usually attracts more than 30,000 runners, was a low-key event with few spectators on Sunday after organisers restricted the race to only 200 elite runners.
The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo is the biggest global sporting event of the year, and organizers have already voiced concerns that the disease could cause problems for the event. Players were advised to avoid post game handshakes and instead stick with fist or elbow “bumps”. The status of the games could be up in the air as late as May. By all accounts, it seems like the IOC is going to do all it can to keep the event going, given that a cancellation would result in losses of tens of billions of dollars and severe financial devastation for sports governing bodies that require Olympic income to survive.
Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto later clarified that the contract the IOC has with the country states the organization “has the right to cancel the games only if they are not held during 2020” with no specific dates mentioned.
Unsurprisingly, the country that first saw coronavirus infect its citizens, China, had an event that was scheduled to be in the city of Nanjing postponed to next year. The World Athletics Indoor Championships were meant to take place from March 13-15 but will now take place in March 2021.
The regular NBA season is on track to finish on April 15, and playoffs are scheduled to go ahead, although players in the Chinese Basketball Association have been temporarily halted from signing NBA contracts League spokesman Mike Bass said, in a statement to Yahoo Sports, that the health and safety of the employees, team, players and fans is paramount. “We are coordinating with our teams and consulting with the CDC and infectious disease specialists on the coronavirus, and continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Italy has shut down its fair share of football games due to concerns about the disease and all sporting events will take place, although behind closed doors until April 3. Five matches, including one that had serious implications for the title race, were postponed in the wake of a coronavirus outbreak in the country. Serie A side Juventus have told their U-23 team to remain at home until March 8 after it came out that three players from their last opponent contracted Coronavirus.
The premier event on the WWE schedule, WrestleMania 36, is scheduled to take place on April 5th in Tampa, Florida. As the biggest show of the year for the biggest promotion in the world, the company is monitoring the spread of the virus. Speaking in her role as the chief brand officer of the WWE, Stephanie McMahon told the Tampa Bay Times what the company’s focus is-“The health and safety of not only our fan base, but also our superstars, really does come first,” McMahon said. “We don’t want to put anyone in a bad situation ever, regardless of the circumstance. Those are not risks worth taking.”
In Motorsports, the opening MotoGP race of the season in Qatar was cancelled by organizers because of the Coronavirus-related travel restrictions on those arriving from Italy. Those who have arrived from Italy, or have been to Italy over the last couple weeks, will be quarantined for 14 days. Italian rider Andrea Dovizioso was the winner of last year’s race, and the organization itself stated “Italy clearly plays a vital role in the Championship and in the MotoGP class – both on track and off – and therefore the decision has been taken to cancel the premier class competition,” per the Associated Press.
Golf’s PGA Tour released a statement on the 2nd March stating that the organization is “closely monitoring all available information related to the continued spread of the Novel Coronavirus COVIC-19,” and with their findings, they concluded that “there are no planned schedule changes beyond what has already been decide with the PGA Tour Series-China (a delay to the start of the season).”