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Coronavirus impacts sports events industry

A health worker checks the temperature of a man entering the subway in Beijing (by Betsy Joles/Getty Images)

The coronavirus has begun to impact the sports industry with Olympic qualifying tournaments in football, boxing and basketball, as well as cycling and tennis events, among the competitions either rescheduled or cancelled amid the growing crisis in China.

Chinese authorities have today (Monday) extended the national new year holiday by three days to Sunday as the number of people killed by the new virus rose to 81, with almost 3,000 confirmed ill. Over the weekend and into today, sports bodies have begun to tackle the impact of the virus on their events.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said it had been informed by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) that it was withdrawing as host of the women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020 Asian Qualifiers Final Round – Group B in Nanjing.

The AFC has partnered with Football Federation Australia (FFA) and has nominated Sydney in Australia as the replacement host for the group which involves Australia, as well as China, Taiwan, and Thailand.

The CFA said that it was taking the decision to withdraw because of the “current situation” of the coronavirus. The AFC had previously agreed to switch the venue from Wuhan to Nanjing because the source of the disease had been identified as being in Wuhan.

The International Basketball Federation (Fiba) today confirmed that the women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament originally scheduled to be played in Foshan will be played on the same dates, February 6-9, in Belgrade, Serbia.

Fiba said it made the decision “after having carefully evaluated the developments” regarding the coronavirus outbreak and placing as main priority the safety of the participating players and team delegation members. Belgrade is also hosting one of the other three women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournaments.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has announced that the Fed Cup Asia/Oceania Group I event, due to take place next month at the Dongguan Tennis Centre, will now be played in the National Tennis Centre in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

The ITF said its decision to move the event to a different venue was taken due to increasing travel restrictions in China at the present time and followed consultation with independent security advisors.

The event will still take place on February 4-8, as originally scheduled. The two best-performing nations from the event will progress to the Fed Cup Play-Offs in April. The National Tennis Centre in Nur-Sultan hosted the last edition of this event in 2019.

Meanwhile, the International Cycling Union (UCI) has cancelled the Tour of Hainan, a ProSeries stage race registered on the 2020 International Road Calendar, which was scheduled to take place from February 23 to March 1.

The UCI said it approved the request of the Chinese National Federation to postpone it to a later date in 2020 subject to availabilities on the calendar. The next road event scheduled in China is the Tour of Chongming Island UCI Women’s WorldTour on May 7-9.

The governing body added: “The UCI is in regular contact with the Chinese authorities, which are keeping it informed of the evolution of the health situation and its impact on the organisation of cycling events in the country.”