Coronavirus latest: F1 Australia to go ahead, Thailand MotoGP postponed, and more

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W09, leads Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF71H, Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF71H, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB14 Tag Heuer, away from the grid during the Australian GP at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 25, 2018 in Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Australia (Steven Tee/LAT Images)

Formula One’s season-opening race in Australia on March 15 is to go ahead, with teams and equipment expected to depart for the event this week, despite the threat of the coronavirus.

Formula One’s management and motor-racing governing body FIA said they are monitoring the outbreak, and that the safety of teams, staff and fans is a priority.

Andrew Westacott, chief executive of the Australian Grand Prix, told UK newspaper The Guardian: “The finishing touches are being put on the circuit; F1 freight and personnel are arriving in the coming days.

“We continue to closely monitor the situation in the lead-up to the grand prix and are taking guidance from subject-matter experts, including Victorian and national chief health officers and the Australian Health Protection principal committee.

“At this stage there is no indication of further travel bans, nor is there any indication that Formula One and the teams will not be arriving as usual. Formula One has again confirmed overnight that the Australian Grand Prix is going ahead.”

The Chinese GP has already been postponed due to the outbreak, and the Bahrain GP scheduled a week after the Australian GP may be held behind closed doors. Organisers of the Vietnam Grand Prix on April 5 have so far insisted that the event will take place as scheduled.

NBA advises players to avoid fan high-fives

The National Basketball Association has told teams to avoid high-fiving fans and strangers and avoid taking any item for autographs, the league’s latest response in its ongoing monitoring of the coronavirus crisis.

In a memo sent to teams last weekend, the league offered 10 recommendations to players in attempt to stem the spread of the virus, including not taking items such as markers and pens, balls, or jerseys from autograph-seeking fans.

Other basic measures recommended by the league include staying up to date with vaccinations and avoiding those are currently sick.

Thailand MotoGP postponed indefinitely

The MotoGP Thailand Grand Prix has been postponed by the Thailand government, just hours after Dorna Sports and the FIM cancelled the first round of the 2020 season in Qatar on March 8.

A statement by the race organisers sai: “Due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the decision has been taken to postpone the Thai GP.

“As the global outbreak of coronavirus continues to develop, the Thai government has communicated that it won’t be possible to hold the OR Thailand Grand Prix on its original date.

“The FIM, IRTA and Dorna therefore regret to announce that the event, due to be held on the 22nd of March in Buriram, has been postponed.

“The FIM, IRTA and Dorna are currently evaluating if an alternative date is possible for the event later this season.

“Further updates will be published as soon as available.”

Thai health minister Anutin Charnvirakul released a statement saying: “I would not say [that the race] is cancelled but postponed until we find the time to carry it out.

“The reason is the coronavirus, so we must postpone it until further notice.

“We have to act in accordance with the circumstances that are occurring in the world, and this is the best decision in the interest of both the participants and the country.”

Last Friday, Anutin was in favour of proceeding with the event, but now said: “The problem is that things change every day, and now we are talking about a pandemic.”

It is possible that the MotoGP season will now begin on April 5 at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas, although question marks remain over travel restrictions that could be imposed by the US on countries which have been hit by the outbreak.

Chinese Super League

The start of the Chinese Super League has been postponed again till after May, according to local media reports. With this latest change, it is likely that the schedule of the CSL will need to change drastically, with the frequency of double fixtures each week to increase in order to finish the season in time.

Italian Serie A

Serie A president Paolo Dal Pino and his response to the coronavirus outbreak in Italy was slammed by Inter Milan president Steven Zhang, who accused Dal Pino of not caring about the safety of the Serie A players and coaches on his Instagram account today.

Five Serie A games were postponed to May 13, after an earlier decision for the games to be played behind closed doors.

Zhang, the son of Zhang Jindong, who owns  Chinese conglomerate Suning, the parent company of Inter Milan, said on his Instagram account today: “Playing around the aclendar and always putting the public health as secondary consideration. You are probably the biggest and darkest clown I have ever seen. 24 hours? 48 hours? 7 days? And what else? What’s your next step?

“And now you speak about sportsmanship and fair competition? How about we don’t protect our players and coaches and ask them to play for your 24/7 non stop?

“Yes I’m speaking at you- our Lega President Paolo Dal Pino! Shame on you. It’s time to stand up and take responsibility- this is what we do in 2020!

“Everybody around  the world, doesn’t matter if you’re an Inter fan or Juventus fan or no fan at all, please be safe! This is the most important thing for you, your family, and our society.”

The Italian government extended the suspension of all sporting events in regions affected by the virus outbreak until 8 March last weekend. Serie A announced on Sunday that it has called an emergency assembly for Wednesday to “examine the consequences the governmental measures related to coronavirus have had on the fixture list”.

Other news:

Six Nations tournament organisers decided against postponing any further matches following an emergency meeting in Paris yesterday. Ireland’s match against Italy in Dublin this weekend has been postponed, but the five remaining matches are set to proceed as planned. Six Nations said it would follow government directives that may yet lead to more postponements.

An Asian Cricket Council meeting scheduled to be held in Dubai on Tuesday has been postponed after several members, including BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, refused to travel due to the coronavirus threat. One of the topics for discussion at the meeting was to be the venue for the upcoming Asia Cup national team tournament. The Pakistan Cricket Board has been irked by what it saw as a premature announcement by Ganguly last week that matches in the competition would be moved from Pakistan to the UAE.

The Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament scheduled to be held in Ipoh, Malaysia from April 11 to 18, will now be held from September 24 to October 3.

The Football Association of Thailand called an emergency meeting yesterday and decided that Thai domestic league matches would be played behind closed doors from March 7 through to the seventh round of fixtures on March 14 and 15.

The Asian Athletics Athletics Association has cancelled the Asian 20km Race Walk Championships in Japan scheduled for March 15.

The Australian Football League has cancelled the game in Shanghai between St Kilda and Port Adelaide scheduled for May 31, and plans to hold the fixture in Melbourne at the Marvel Stadium instead.

The Korean Volleyball Federation (KOVO) said both the men’s and women’s V-League regular seasons will be put on hold, starting with matches scheduled for today. Yesterday, representatives from the 13 V-League teams had asked the KOVO to halt matches. V-League teams have been playing behind closed doors since last Tuesday.

Following an emergency board meeting yesterday, the Korean Basketball League said its regular season, halted since last weekend, will resume at the end of this month, on March 29.

According to the Tehran Times, the Iran Sports and Sports Federation has officially postponed all competitions, including the Iranian Professional Football League, until further notice. The postponements cover football and futsal games.

An official of the Korea Mountain Federation said that the Sports Climbing World Cup Boulder Competition, which is scheduled for April 18 to 19 in Wujiang, China, and the Sports Climbing World Cup Speed ​​Competition in Chongqing, China, on April 22, have been cancelled.

The WTA has announced that the 2020 Kunming Open, a 125K WTA tournament in Anning, China scheduled for April 27 to May 3, has been cancelled. This follows the cancellation announced February 20 of the 125K WTA tournament in Xi’an, China, originally scheduled for April 13-19.

The Asian Squash Federation has postponed the Asian Team championship scheduled on March 25 to 29 in Kuala Lumpur, and the Asian Junior Individual championship scheduled for Qingdao, China on June 29 to July 3. The decision was taken at the AGM of the ASF and the federation said fresh dates for both events will be announced at a later date.

The Japan Sumo Association’s board of directors held an extraordinary session in Osaka yesterday, and have decided to hold the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, scheduled for next weekend, behind closed doors for the first time in the history of the competition. The tournament was completely sold out, with over 7,000 spectators expected to attend each day.

The meet will be televised on Japanese public broadcaster NHK, but the tournament will be canceled if a wrestler is found to have contracted the virus, according to JSA chairman Hakkaku.