Wuhan virus: World Indoor Athletics in China postponed until March 2021 due to coronavirus

A child wearing a protective mask looks on in Beijing on Jan 29, 2020.
A child wearing a protective mask looks on in Beijing on Jan 29, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - The World Indoor Athletics Championships, scheduled for the Chinese city of Nanjing in March, have been postponed until 2021 as a consequence of the coronavirus epidemic, officials said.

"It is with regret that we have agreed with the organisers of the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing (13-15 March 2020) to postpone the event to March 2021," the sport's governing body said in a statement.

"The advice from our medical team, who are in contact with the World Health Organisation, is that the spread of the coronavirus, both within China and outside the country, is still at a concerning level and no one should be going ahead with any major gathering that can be postponed."

The championships are the latest sports event to be hit by the virus which as of Wednesday (Jan 29) had seen some 6,000 cases confirmed in China with at least 132 fatalities.

The virus has spread from the epicentre of Wuhan to more that 15 countries, with about 60 cases in Asia, Europe, North America and, most recently, the Middle East.

World Athletics said they had considered the possibility of relocating the event to another country but "given concerns still exist regarding the spread of the virus outside China, we have decided not to go with this option, as it may lead to further postponement at a later date".

"We would like Nanjing to be the host given the extensive planning and preparation they have put into this event.

"We have chosen not to cancel the championships as many of our athletes would like this event to take place so we will now work with our athletes, our partners and the Nanjing organising committee to secure a date in 2021 to stage this event."

Earlier on Wednesday, World Cup skiing races in the Chinese resort of Yanqing, the first test events for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, were cancelled because of the outbreak.

The men's downhill and super-G races were scheduled for Feb 15 and Feb 16 in Yanqing, 70km north-west of Beijing.

In Australia, the China's women's football team has been quarantined in a Brisbane hotel after arriving for an Olympic qualifying competition.

All home games for Chinese football clubs in the AFC Champions League's group stage in February and March will be rescheduled and played as away fixtures.

The change affects four Chinese clubs and their South Korean opponents.

The Asian Football Confederation said the decision was a "precautionary measure to ensure the safety and well-being of all participating players and teams".

Elsewhere, the International Tennis Federation has already said next week's Fed Cup's Asia/Oceania Group I event had been moved from Dongguan, southern China, to Kazakhstan.

The women's team event, involving China, Taiwan, India, South Korea and Uzbekistan will now be held in the Kazakh capital on the originally scheduled dates, Feb 4-8.

The Asian indoor athletics championships planned for Feb 12-13 in Hangzhou have also been cancelled.