Sports events hit by coronavirus outbreak

COVID-19 has forced Olympic qualifiers and major international competitions in China to be cancelled or relocated.

Women''s Olympic Football Tournament Qualifier - Chinese Taipei v China
A four-team women's Olympic qualifying tournament was moved from Wuhan to Australia by the AFC [Mark Kolbe/Getty Images]

Many international sports events in China have been postponed, moved and even cancelled amid the novel coronavirus outbreak that has killed at least 1,523 people on the mainland and infected more than 67,000 people globally. 

The new type of virus – now named COVID-19 – was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December and has since spread to two dozen nations.

Many countries have evacuated their citizens from Wuhan and other affected areas of China, while travel restrictions have been imposed and flights suspended to and from cities in China. 

As the virus continues to spread and the death toll rises, major sporting events, including the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, are under threat.

Here are some of the competitions that have been affected by the epidemic:


Asian Champions League matches involving Chinese clubs Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG have been postponed until April and May.

Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG were due to play away against Perth Glory and Sydney FC but Australian officials sought to reschedule matches after their government imposed a travel ban on foreign nationals arriving from China.

A four-team women’s Olympic qualifying tournament involving China, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand was moved from Wuhan to Australia by the AFC.

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Vietnam’s government said it would not allow the country to host sporting events in February, meaning home AFC Cup group stage matches for Ho Chi Minh City and Than Quang Ninh will have to be moved to away fixtures.

Ho Chi Minh City will now face Yangon United in Myanmar on February 11 while Than Quang Ninh meet Ceres-Negros on February 25 in the Philippines.

The Chinese Football Association also postponed domestic games at all levels.


The World Athletics Indoor Championships, which had been scheduled in Nanjing from March 13 to 15, were postponed until next year.

World Athletics is working with organisers to settle on a date to host the biennial event in 2021.

The Asian Athletics Association cancelled its February 12-13 indoor championships in Hangzhou.


The International Tennis Federation moved the Fed Cup Asia/Oceania Group I event featuring China, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea and Uzbekistan out of Dongguan to Nur-Sultan in Kazakhstan.

But the February 4-8 event was later postponed and relocated to Dubai after Kazakhstan declined to serve as substitute hosts.


The elite women’s LPGA golf tour in Hainan – an island on China’s southeast coast – cancelled the Blue Bay tournament that was scheduled to be held from March 5 to 8.

The PGA Tour Series-China moved its February 25-28 global qualifying tournament to Lagoi, Indonesia, from Haikou, a town in Hainan.

Spectators wearing masks to prevent contacting to a new coronavirus attend Four Continents Figure Skating Championships 2020 in Seoul
Spectators wearing masks to protect against a new coronavirus attend Four Continents Figure Skating Championships 2020 in Seoul, South Korea [Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]


Formula One organisers have postponed the Chinese Grand Prix, scheduled in Shanghai on April 19.

Motorsport federation FIA said, along with Formula One, it had accepted a request from the promoter to postpone the race.

A potential alternative date later in the year will be looked at if the health situation improves, a statement said.

The all-electric Formula E motor racing series also abandoned plans for a race in Sanya, China, on March 21. 


The International Olympic Committee announced Jordan as hosts of the boxing qualifiers for Asia and Oceania after an event in Wuhan was cancelled. It will now take place in Amman from March 3 to 11.


The International Basketball Federation moved the February 6-9 Tokyo Olympics qualifiers to be held in Foshan to Belgrade, Serbia.

The FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifying match between China and Malaysia, to be held in Foshan on February 24, will be rescheduled.

FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2020 - Day Three
China players celebrate after winning against South Korea during the FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2020 Group B match in Belgrade [Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images]


The China Masters tournament in Hainan, scheduled to take place from February 25 to March 1, was postponed after several players withdrew.

The Badminton World Federation was hopeful the flagship Badminton Asia Championships could still go ahead in Wuhan from April 21 to 26.


Hockey Pro League matches between China and Australia, scheduled for March 14-15 in Changzhou, will not be played.

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) had previously postponed China’s match against Belgium that was to be played on February 9 at the same venue.

The FIH is looking into the possibility of China playing its games at an alternate venue.

Tokyo 2020

With some Olympic qualifying events cancelled or relocated, the virus has stoked concern about the Tokyo Summer Games, which begin on July 24.


A total of 219 people on board a quarantined cruise ship docked off Yokohama, south of Tokyo, have tested positive for the virus so far. Forty-one cases have been reported in the country.

Olympic organisers have set up a taskforce to coordinate with health authorities on how to respond to the epidemic.

“We are extremely worried that the spread of the virus could pour cold water on momentum for the Games,” Toshiro Muto, chief executive officer of the Tokyo Organising Committee, said last week.

Despite concerns, organisers have repeatedly said the Games will be held as scheduled.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies