HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong's famous rugby sevens tournament has been postponed to November 2022, the organisers announced on Tuesday (Nov 16), the fifth delay to the showpiece event since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
The city has been largely cut off from the outside world for around 20 months, the government tying the former British colony's fortunes to China's "zero-Covid" strategy.
Officials have warned that strict quarantine rules are unlikely to ease until summer next year at the earliest.
Robbie McRobbie, chief executive of the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU), said in a statement that the organisers could not guarantee "all participating teams can be allowed to travel and the ability to host the event to our own high standard" by April next year as planned.
While expressing "staunch support" for the city government's anti-virus measures, he warned that the longer the event is delayed, the higher the risk it will disappear from international calendars.
The latest postponement takes the event's total delay to two years - the longest that the Hong Kong Sevens has suffered since it was established in 1976.
The international financial hub's continued coronavirus isolation, while rivals gradually open up, has caused concerns and criticism from the business community and the public.
Last month, the annual Hong Kong Marathon was allowed to resume, with the number of participants slashed by three-quarters, to 18,500.
The 2022 World Rugby Sevens Series will commence in Dubai with two legs over Nov 26-27 and Dec 3-4, followed by two legs in Spain in January, Vancouver in February, Los Angeles in March, Singapore in April and Toulouse and London in May.