KUALA LUMPUR (AFP, REUTERS) - The Malaysia Open badminton tournament due to take place this month has been postponed because of a worsening coronavirus outbreak, the organisers said on Friday (May 7), leaving only one qualifying event for the Olympics.
The competition was scheduled for May 25-30 but will now take place on future dates which are not yet decided, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) said.
"All attempts were made by the organisers and BWF to provide a safe tournament environment for participants, but the recent surge in cases left no choice but to postpone the tournament," the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) and global body Badminton World Federation (BWF) said in a joint statement.
Infections have climbed sharply in Malaysia in recent weeks, prompting the authorities to tighten curbs in the capital Kuala Lumpur - where the tournament was due to held - and surrounding areas.
The Super 750 event on the HSBC BWF World Tour was the penultimate event where Olympic hopefuls could collect points towards the Race to Tokyo rankings - a programme that decides who qualifies for the Summer Games which begin on July 23.
The sports ministry of India, which is badly affected by a recent surge in Covid-19 cases, on Thursday sought an exemption from a travel ban to allow its players to compete in the tournament.
The postponement of the India Open, which was scheduled for Delhi between May 11 and 16, had already dealt a severe blow to Indian shuttlers hoping to secure Olympic berths.
The BWF confirmed the rescheduled competition would no longer take place in the Olympic qualifying window.
This leaves the Singapore Open from June 1 to 6 as the only qualifying event before the Games, which were postponed by a year.
As with other sports, the badminton calendar has been thrown into chaos due to the pandemic, with many events cancelled worldwide in the past year.