Tokyo Olympics 2020: Qualifiers, sports events shifted from China amid outbreak of coronavirus

  • Amid growing concern at the spread of a new virus outbreak in China, international sports have been postponed and Olympic qualifying tournaments are being taken elsewhere

  • The decision by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to postpone Pro League games in China follows qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics scheduled in February in football, basketball and boxing being moved outside of China

  • The biggest upcoming event in China is the Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai on 19 April, which draws large crowds for the race and for practice and qualifying

Geneva: Amid growing concern at the spread of a new virus outbreak in China, international sports have been postponed and Olympic qualifying tournaments are being taken elsewhere.

 Tokyo Olympics 2020: Qualifiers, sports events shifted from China amid outbreak of coronavirus

Medical workers in protective gear talk with a woman suspected of being ill with a coronavirus at a community health station in Wuhan. AP

The decision by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to postpone Pro League games in China follows qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics scheduled in February in football, basketball and boxing being moved outside of China.

The Chinese women’s field hockey team was due to host Belgium for two games on 8 to 9 February in Changzhou. Those were postponed on Tuesday by the FIH citing “current uncertainties around the outbreak of the coronavirus in China.”

The Lausanne, Switzerland-based governing body said it was “following the recommendations of the World Health Organization,” ahead of future matches. China is scheduled to host Australia for two games from 14 to 15 March.

The biggest upcoming event in China is the Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai on 19 April, which draws large crowds for the race and for practice and qualifying.

Olympic qualifying events scheduled in China in February to help decide entries for the Tokyo Games have also been affected in recent days.

Women’s soccer and women’s basketball games were moved to Australia and Serbia. The football games had already previously moved from Wuhan, at the center of the outbreak, to Nanjing. Boxing tournaments for the Asia and Oceania regions will be held in Jordan in March.

The first World Cup races testing the mountain venue for alpine skiing at the 2022 Beijing Olympics are also at risk. A men's downhill is scheduled for 15 February at Yanqing to start a two-race weekend.

China is also due to host track and field’s indoor world championships from 13 to 15 March in Nanjing.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike acknowledged her concern about the virus speaking Wednesday to the heads of 62 municipalities.

“With only 177 days to go and our preparations accelerating, we must firmly tackle the new coronavirus to contain it, or we are going to regret it,” Koike said. ”I will do the utmost to contain this new problem as we cooperate closely with all of you."

Tokyo Olympic organisers put out a generic statement on Wednesday and offered no details. Countermeasures against infectious diseases constitute an important part of our plans to host a safe and secure games,” the statement said.

It said Tokyo would “carefully monitor any incidence of infectious diseases and we will review any countermeasures that may be necessary with all relevant organisations.”

More than 100 deaths in China have been recorded because of the disease, including the first in Beijing. More than 4,500 cases reported in China include almost 1,000 people in serious condition, national health authorities said.

The new coronavirus seems to spread less easily among people than SARS or influenza. Most cases involve family members and health workers who had contact with patients.

Cases have been reported in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, the United States, Australia, Canada and Germany.

Hong Kong is to suspend rail services on Thursday linking it to mainland China.

The coronavirus family includes the common cold but also more severe illnesses. It causes cold and flu-like symptoms, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath and pneumonia.

The virus is thought to have spread to people from wild animals sold at a market in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people which is now in lockdown.

Future sports events in China include a qualifying game for football’s 2022 World Cup on 26 March, against Maldives, and the China Open golf tournament, part of the European Tour, from 23 to 26 April in Shenzhen.

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Updated Date: Jan 29, 2020 14:47:31 IST