The same coronavirus concerns that hammered financial markets in the past week have caused sports organizations around the world to consider potential risks, start making contingency plans, and even cancel major competitions.
Coronavirus concerns trigger postponed contests
Italy is the first European nation dealing with a coronavirus crisis, with the outbreak having infected more than 650 people. The U.S. State Department issued an advisory on Friday suggesting that Americans reconsider traveling there.
Italian authorities postponed four soccer matches in the northern region of the country last week and announced that a match between Inter Milan and Juventus, two of the top three teams in the highly competitive Serie A, would be played in an empty stadium. Officials then reconsidered and postponed that contest and four others in the league until May 13.
Three players in one of that country’s lower soccer leagues have been diagnosed with coronavirus.
Officials of the UEFA European Championships are watching nervously because Euro 2020, the continent’s biggest soccer tournament, is scheduled to be played in a dozen countries beginning in Rome on June 12.
How are the major U.S. sports preparing for coronavirus?
The NFL has the least to worry about regarding the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. Although offseason team workouts begin in April followed later in the month by the draft, the start of training camps is more than four months away.
An NFL spokesman said the league has been in contact with the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control. In addition, the league and the players union are also consulting with the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network Program for Infection Prevention.
The NHL and NBA have the most at stake among the major professional sports since they are coming down the home stretch of their regular seasons, followed by the financially vital playoffs. However, fewer than 60 coronavirus patients were being treated at U.S. hospitals as of Friday and the first death was confirmed Saturday.
An NBA spokesman said the league is working with the CDC and infectious disease specialists. The NHL and its players union have created a workgroup to monitor developments.
Major League Baseball, which is in the midst of spring training in Florida and Arizona, has not issued a statement on coronavirus, but The New York Post reported the league has been following policies similar to the hockey and basketball leagues.
The U.S.-based LPGA has already been affected by cancellations that have blown a month-long hole into the schedule. The tour scrapped planned tournaments in Thailand last week, Singapore this weekend and Hainan Island, a Chinese province in the South China Sea next weekend. The next stop on the schedule is now March 19-22 in Phoenix.
The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association barnstorming tour of Japan that was to take place March 4-7 has also been called off.
Other sports around the world are being affected
The status of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo remains uncertain. Because of the logistics associated with more than two weeks of competition for more than 11,000 athletes from around the world, International Olympic Officials must decide by May if the competition can begin as scheduled July 24.
Japan is in the midst of a two-week stoppage for public events.
Track and Field has already axed its World Indoor Championships that were to be held in Nanjing, China, and rescheduled the meet for March 2021.
In auto racing, Formula One’s Chinese Grand Prix will not take place as planned April 19 in Shanghai. Because of the widespread coronavirus in that country, no makeup date for the race has been announced.
Plans have not changed thus far for Grand Prix races in Australia on March 15 and Vietnam on April 5 remain.
China has also lost out on its first FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup. The event in Yanqing, which was to serve as test preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, was canceled.
Chinese qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup in men’s soccer against Maldives and Guam late next month have been moved to Thailand. China also forfeited a Davis Cup match against Romania scheduled for next weekend.