Tokyo 2020’s organisers have dismissed reports that this summer’s Olympics might be cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In other coronavirus-related news, organisers of this April’s sports industry conference SportAccord in Beijing said they are “monitoring” the outbreak, high-profile esports tournament the Overwatch League cancelled matches events in China, Chinese-owned Italian football club Inter Milan has donated masks to Wuhan, and the China Open World Snooker Tour event in March and April has been cancelled.
In response to rumours circulating online late last week, the Tokyo 2020 organising committee told the Associated Press: “We have never discussed cancelling the games. Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with the IOC and relevant organisations and will review any countermeasures that may be necessary.”
The rumours followed news that the International Olympic Committee had discussions with the World Health Organisation. UK newspaper The Guardian reported that the story was inflated by online reports, with one example being Japanese website Buzzap! using the Twitter hashtag “Tokyo Olympics Cancelled” to push its coverage of the story.
The IOC said it was “normal practice for [it] to collaborate with all the main UN agencies, as necessary, in the lead up to the games and this naturally includes the WHO.” It added: “Countermeasures against infectious diseases constitute an important part of Tokyo 2020’s plans to host a safe and secure Games. Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with all relevant organisations which carefully monitor any incidence of infectious diseases and will review any countermeasures.”
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike warned last week: “With only 177 days to go and our preparations accelerating, we must firmly tackle the new coronavirus to contain it, or we are going to regret it.”
Late last week, SportAccord president Raffaele Chiulli released a statement saying the organisation was “monitoring the situation and…following the recommendations provided by the Chinese Authorities, the World Health Organisation, and other leading health authorities around the world. We are also fully aware of the recommendations on travel and restrictions imposed by airline companies and governments.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and share any developments regarding SportAccord 2020. Please rest assured SportAccord will continue to do what is in the best interests and safety of all our delegates.”
SportAccord’s annual conference is currently due to take place in Beijing on April 19-24.
Inter Milan, which is majority-owned by Chinese company Suning Holdings Group, is donating 300,000 face masks to the city of Wuhan, the where the coronavirus epidemic started.
Suning has already been helping with the relief effort, providing free shipping services for medical supplies from overseas hospitals. Its OTT sports and entertainment service PP Sports is also being made available for free throughout China, as a special measure.
In a press release, the club said: “We are brothers of the world – the Club sends their best wishes to the city of Wuhan and to all China: we fight together, stay strong!”
The World Snooker Tour announced on Friday the cancellation of this year’s China Open, one of the most lucrative tournaments in the sport with a prize pool of $1.3m. It was due to take place on March 30 to April 5 in Beijing.
In a press release, the WST said: “Discussions with our partners in terms of staging this event at a later date are ongoing. In the meantime, our thoughts are with all of our many friends across China and in particular those affected by the coronavirus.”
The Overwatch League, the international, franchise-based esports competition has postponed its events in China in February and March. The league has four franchises in China and more than a dozen matches were scheduled in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou over the next two months. Ticket refunds are being offered and its planned that the matches will be rescheduled for later in the year.
This year was the first that the league adopted an ambitious travelling schedule, in which its teams play home and away fixtures across three continents. Previously, most matches took place in California. The 2020 season is due to begin on February 8.
Longines Masters of Hong Kong
The Longines Masters of Hong Kong equestrian event, part of the Fédération Equestre Internationale’s annual Masters Series, due to take place on February 14-16 has been cancelled. The parallel Asia Horse Week equestrian networking and conferences event has also been cancelled.
Organiser EEM said more than 35,000 were expected to attend the events. “The safety of our audience, athletes, visitors, exhibitors, service providers, internal teams, as well as that of the horses taking part in the events of the Longines Masters Series, is an absolute priority”, said Christophe Ameeuw, founder and president of EEM. “Our loyal partners, which include Longines, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the Hong Kong Equestrian Federation, DBS Bank, Hong Kong International Airport, AsiaWorld-Expo, the Hong Kong Tourism Office and TVB Pearl, who have already been informed, showed their understanding and support.”
Tickets for both events will be refunded.
The Asian Football Confederation has called an emergency meeting tomorrow in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the impact of the epidemic on its activities.
Australia at the weekend began denying entry to non-Australian citizens arriving from China, halting AFC Champions League matches due to take place in the country. Chinese teams Beijing Guoan, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG were scheduled to play in Australia in February and March.
China’s national winter games in Inner Mongolia, due to take place from February 16 to 26, are in doubt. The organising committee said two weeks ago the event had been postponed, but the General Administration of Sport said at the weekend that its possible it will still take place in February. Failing that, the GAS said it would be moved to the end of the year.
Japan’s domestic rugby league, the Top League, has cancelled fan interaction events in which players and fans exchange ‘high fives’ after matches, as a precautionary measure against the epidemic.