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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, February 14, 2020
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COVID-19 creates chaos
in Asia's sports calendar


The deadly COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is causing chaos across Asia's sporting calendar.

Some of the continent's most prestigious sports events, including Formula One's Chinese Grand Prix and the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens have been postponed although Tokyo has pledged that this year's 2020 Olympics, due to begin on July 24, will go ahead as planned.

The Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19 was postponed yesterday after the governing body FIA took advice from its partners in China "to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans".

Nothing has been announced regarding the inaugural Vietnamese Grand Prix, scheduled for April 5 on a Hanoi street circuit -- around 135 kilometers from the Chinese border.

The Chinese Formula E Grand Prix on the southern island of Hainan on March 21 has been scrapped.

Sevens World Series tournaments in Hong Kong on April 3-5 and Singapore the following weekend have been postponed, World Rugby announced yesterday.

The Singapore tournament will now take place on October 10-11 and Hong Kong a week later on October 16-18, concluding the 10-stop world series.

Tokyo Olympics organizers yesterday hit back at speculation the Games could be scrapped, with less than six months to go until the opening ceremony on July 24.

Tokyo 2020 CEO Yoshiro Mori, at a meeting with International Olympic Committee officials, said: "There are many irresponsible rumors but I would like to make it clear again that we are not considering postponing or cancelling the Games."

The elite women's US LPGA Tour cancelled all three of its lucrative early-season events in Asia in Thailand, Singapore and Thailand with a combined prize purse of more than $5 million.

The European Tour is expected to postpone its China Open at Shenzhen in April, with an announcement soon.

The Asian Tour said yesterday that next month's Malaysia Open and Royal's Cup in Thailand were still going ahead with precautions such as temperature checks and travel declarations.

The US PGA Tour's third-tier China Series has postponed two qualifying events, which had already been moved to Thailand and Indonesia, until early May.

The China-based circuit has also shelved its first four regular season events in Sanya, Haikou, Chongqing and Guangzhou and plan a truncated season of 10 tournaments, down from 14, beginning in late May or June.

China has suspended all domestic football and postponed indefinitely the top-flight Chinese Super League season which was due to kick off on February 22.

The virus has hit Asia's continental competitions, with four Chinese clubs' home group matches in the AFC Champions League, which began this week, being postponed until at least April and May.

Home AFC Cup matches for Vietnamese teams have been postponed or moved to away venues after the government banned all sports and entertainment events in February.

No decision has been made yet on Asia's World Cup qualifying matches next month. China are due to host the Maldives on March 26 and play in Guam five days later. Fixtures involving Hong Kong and Taiwan could also be in doubt.

A women's Olympic qualifying event between China, Taiwan, Thailand and Australia scheduled for last week in Wuhan, the disease epicentre, was moved to Sydney.*AFP


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