Coronavirus Shuts Down More Sport, Are The Olympics And Euro 2020 Next To Be Hit?

From football to F1, more and more sport has fallen victim to the deadly virus
07:00, 29 Feb 2020

The Coronavirus has just cancelled sport in Asia. Where next?

The Sportsman asked this very question two weeks ago, and now a bigger picture is forming as the virus that originated in Wuhan, China, has spread to almost 50 countries, with governments now taking measures to ensure more are infected - including quarantining towns.

Advertisement

At the time of writing nearly 3,000 people have lost their lives, and sport across the globe has become a victim too. Every hour there are fresh reports of events being postponed or cancelled, and there are now major doubts as to whether the Olympic Games can go ahead in Tokyo this summer.

In Italy, the country in Europe which has been hit hardest, their sporting bodies have already taken steps to try and stop the spread. Serie A’s top of the table clash between Juventus and Inter will take place behind closed doors while Udinese, Parma and Sassuolo games will also take place without fans in the stadium.

In Milan, AC and Inter have closed their offices while Ludogorets, who visited the San Siro to take on Antonio Conte’s side in the Europa League on Thursday, turned up wearing masks and gloves on their hands as a precaution. The Bulgarian side even hired an immunologist for the trip, according to BBC Sport.

Qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and 2022 World Cup could be postponed in a bid to prevent the spread. This weekend's matches in Switzerland's top two divisions have been postponed. In the UK, Newcastle boss Steve Bruce has revealed shaking hands has been banned around the club.

"There's a ritual here that everybody shakes hands as soon as we see each other every morning - we've stopped that on the advice of the doctor,” he said at his press conference. "Thankfully, we've got a superb doctor here and he will keep us informed of what we have to do. We're like everybody else, we're glued to the TV for where it's going to go next and let's hope it doesn't get any worse in this country."

While Tottenham's Son Heung-min will self-isolate in line with UK guidelines when he returns from surgery in South Korea. Spurs and north London rivals Arsenal, meanwhile, are also asking visitors to their training grounds to fill out health forms, according to Sky Sports.

Advertisement

Every Rugby, volleyball, basketball and third tier-football fixture in Italy have all been completely suspended this weekend in the UK. 

Ireland’s clash with Italy in the Six Nations has been postponed in a move supported by tournament organisers. A statement read: "We will continue to monitor the situation very closely with all unions and the respective government authorities and health organisations,” with a shadow cast over England’s clash with Italy on March 14.

In horse racing, the Cheltenham Festival, one of the biggest and most prestigious dates on the race meet calendar, is scheduled to go ahead on March 10, though trainers are worried about the risk of the outbreak. With concerns around Asia, where the virus originated, the Olympic Games could be under threat.

However, at this stage, it is going ahead though it could be held across the world as opposed to just Tokyo. “As far as we all know, we’re going to be in Tokyo,” International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said, as reported by the Associated Press.

Advertisement

“We’re pretty good at dealing with sport problems, but a pandemic is beyond our pay grade. It will depend on the WHO (World Health Organisation) to make a call with respect to international travel and the places that should be avoided. It may come down to a government intervention in Japan, or other governments saying ‘we don’t want our citizens travelling there’. Everything is on the table. You could disperse the Games, for example have some events in Canada, some in Britain, etc.”

Euro 2020, being held across the continent for the first time, is also at risk. With some games set to be played in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, it could prove difficult logistically if the Serie A season and Coppa Italia are delayed.

"If the situation degenerates to a certain point, it wouldn't be a heresy to suspend the league completely," former Italy team doctor Enrico Castellazzi told BBC Sport. "Euro 2020 will kick off on 12th June 2020 in Rome. Uefa is in touch with the relevant international and local authorities regarding the Coronavirus and its development. For the moment, there is no need to change anything in the planned timetable. The issue will be kept under constant scrutiny," UEFA told The Telegraph.

The Chinese Grand Prix has been postponed and is yet to be rearranged while there are doubts over whether the season will be able to commence in Australia, Bahrain and Vietnam. According to Forbes, the Coronavirus could cost the sport $85m (£77.5m).

The Giro d’Italia is also at risk. With cycling races set for the worst-hit areas, organisers may have to pull it with the competition ending in Milan at the end of May. 

Cycling's governing body, the UCI, cancelled the final two stages of the UAE Tour because of two "suspected" cases of coronavirus. Britain's Adam Yates, who led after stage five, was declared the winner. Riders at the event, including Yates and fellow Briton Chris Froome, are now being tested for the virus.

"The UCI is doing everything within its power to ensure the health of riders and people concerned," read a statement. "The country's public authorities have taken the health measures recommended in such circumstances, including testing everyone involved in the race. Depending on the results obtained, these individuals will either be able to leave the country or, if contamination is confirmed, will be placed in quarantine."

The Tokyo Marathon, set for this Sunday, will open be only to athlete elites, with the public unable to compete this time around for fear of spreading the virus among thousands of people. The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, Shanghai, has been postponed for an entire year too. 

With the situation showing no signs of slowing, from the Olympics to the Euros, sport’s governing bodies face some tough decisions as they look to ensure the Coronavirus doesn’t spread.