Wuhan virus: Epidemic wreaks havoc on China's sporting calendar

Players of the Chinese Super League team Wuhan Zall during a training camp in San Roque, Cadiz, Spain, on Jan 30, 2020.
Players of the Chinese Super League team Wuhan Zall during a training camp in San Roque, Cadiz, Spain, on Jan 30, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING (AFP) - China has been forced to cancel or put off a host of sporting events due to the Wuhan virus epidemic, from suspending all football in the country to postponing the first badminton tournament of the 2020 world tour season.

The world's most populous country has increasingly become a powerhouse in hosting international sport in recent years, but has had its sporting calendar for the year thrown into chaos.

Here is the list of events affected:

Football

China on Thursday (Jan 30) suspended all domestic football and postponed indefinitely the top-flight Chinese Super League season kick-off due on Feb 22 in order to "carry out prevention and control of the pneumonia epidemic," said the Chinese Football Association.

The Asian Football Confederation announced on Wednesday that home Champions League group stage games featuring four Chinese clubs would be switched to away fixtures for the first three match days in February and March. A decision on venues for each club's three home group matches will be made at a later date.

Women's football

A women's Olympics qualifying event between China, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Australia scheduled from Feb 3-9 in Wuhan, the disease epicentre, was moved initially to Nanjing then to Sydney. The China women's football team were quarantined in a Brisbane hotel on Wednesday after arriving in Australia for the tournament.

Athletics

The World Indoor Championships, scheduled for Nanjing from March 13-15, were postponed for a year. "It is with regret that we have agreed with the organisers ... to postpone the event to March 2021," the sport's governing body said in a statement on Wednesday.

Boxing

A qualification event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics initially scheduled from Feb 3-14 in Wuhan was rescheduled for Amman in Jordan from March 3-11.

Women's basketball

Another Olympic qualifying tournament, a four-team battle for three Tokyo places between China, Britain, Spain and South Korea was moved on Monday from Foshan to Belgrade where it will run alongside another four-team group from Feb 6-9.

 
 
 

Aquatics

The Chinese leg of the Diving World Series, scheduled for March 7-9 in Beijing has been cancelled, Cornel Marculescu, president of the international swimming federation, told AFP on Monday. He said the World Series of synchronised swimming, scheduled for Suzhou from April 23-25, was also in question.

Cycling

The Tour of Hainan, due to be promoted to the second-tier ProSeries this year, was scheduled from Feb 23 to March 1 on the southern island of Hainan. It has been cancelled "due to the health situation in the country", the International Cycling Union said on Monday but could be rescheduled later in 2020.

Skiing

Men's World Cup races set for Feb 15 and 16 in the Chinese resort of Yanqing, the first test events for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, were cancelled and shifted on Thursday to Saalbach-Hinterglemm in Austria on Feb 13 and 14.

Golf

The LPGA on Thursday cancelled the 2020 Blue Bay tournament scheduled for March 5-8 on Hainan island.

Snooker

The China Open in Beijing, set for March 30-April 5, was postponed on Friday.

Badminton

The China Masters tournament from Feb 25 to March 1 was postponed on Saturday. Several players had already withdrawn. Organisers said the Asia Championships in Wuhan scheduled for April may also be disrupted.

Event under threat include:

Formula One

The Chinese Grand Prix race weekend is scheduled for Shanghai from April 17-19, an event that attracts tens of thousands of fans. Governing body the FIA has said it will monitor the situation closely.

Formula E

The electric car racing series is also due to stage a race in China, on March 21 on Hainan. Organisers said they would monitor developments on a daily basis. -

Football

China is due to host the Maldives in a World Cup qualifying match on March 26 and travel to Guam for another on March 31 and said despite the postponement of all domestic football, any decision on international fixtures would be made at a later date.

Wrestling

The Asian Olympic qualifying tournament scheduled for March 27-29 in Xi'an could be cancelled. The International Wrestling Federation told AFP on Monday that it would take a decision within 15 days.

Sport conference

The SportAccord annual convention, which brings together the presidents of the major international sports federations and the heads of the Olympic movement, including IOC President Thomas Bach, is due to take place in Beijing from April 19-24. SportAccord said it would follow the recommendations of the Chinese authorities and the WHO concerning travel.