Coronavirus pandemic shreds global sporting calendar

US PGA to continue without spectators while men’s tennis, NBA and NHL all suspended

Japanese government officials have said they were determined to hold "safe and secure" Olympics on schedule, a day after US President Donald Trump said Tokyo should consider delaying them for a year because of the pandemic. Video: Reuters

 

The global sporting calendar has been shredded by the coronavirus pandemic, with men’s tennis shut down for six weeks, the NBA having announced a suspension until further notice, and the Australian Grand Prix postponed.

Poignantly, the Olympic flame was lit in ancient Olympia but the road to the Tokyo Olympics appears, at present, a distant one with the spread of the virus impacting across all sports.

Men’s tennis’s ATP Tour announced that no tournaments would take place until after April 20th at the earliest, wiping out the prestigious Miami Open and Monte Carlo Open as well as tournaments in Houston and Marrakech.

“This is not a decision that was taken lightly and it represents a great loss for our tournaments, players, and fans worldwide,” the ATP’s chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said.

“However we believe this is the responsible action needed at this time in order to protect the health and safety of our players, staff, the wider tennis community and general public health in the face of this global pandemic.”

Earlier this week the Indian Wells tournament was cancelled, while the International Tennis Federation postponed the revamped Fed Cup Finals set for Budapest in April.

Fans leave the Golden 1 Center after the NBA game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings was postponed in Sacramento, California on Wednesday. Photograph: Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo
Fans leave the Golden 1 Center after the NBA game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings was postponed in Sacramento, California on Wednesday. Photograph: Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo

The National Basketball Association (NBA) took the decision on Wednesday to suspend the season until further notice after two Utah Jazz players tested positive for virus, also known as Covid-19.

“The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic,” a statement said.

Basketball’s world governing body Fiba is suspending all its competitions from Friday onwards, while EuroLeague Basketball is also suspended until further notice. A member of Real Madrid’s basketball team tested positive for the virus.

Formula One’s season-opening race in Australia has been postponed in the wake of British team McLaren withdrawing from the event after a team member tested positive for coronavirus, the PA news agency understands.

The decision was taken following a crisis two-hour summit involving F1’s under-fire hierarchy, its governing body, the FIA, and a number of the sport’s team principals in Melbourne.

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton had earlier criticised the decision to press ahead with the event. “I am very, very surprised we are here,” he said. “It’s great we have races but it’s shocking we are sitting in this room.”

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan is broadcast on a scoreboard on the 18th green, during the first round of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photograph: Lynne Sladky/AP Photo
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan is broadcast on a scoreboard on the 18th green, during the first round of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photograph: Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

Meanwhile, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has defended the decision to allow tournaments to continue during the coronavirus pandemic. While other sports in the US have been suspended or cancelled in response to the outbreak, PGA Tour events will go ahead as planned without spectators on site.

The policy takes effect from Friday’s second round of the Players Championship and continues until the Masters on April 9th, which is understood to be considering its own response to the rapidly-evolving situation.

Asked why the PGA Tour had not followed the lead of Major League Soccer and the NBA in shutting down entirely, Monahan told a press conference: “If you look at our venues, obviously we are an outdoor sport and here at TPC Sawgrass our players are making their way over 400 acres.

“Over the course of a round our players do socially distance themselves, so we felt like by taking the step to address the problem with our fans, we’re in a position where we can continue to operate the events, as of right now.”

A statement from the International Olympic Committee on Thursday reaffirmed its commitment to the 2020 Games in Tokyo going ahead as scheduled, starting on July 24th.

“With 19 weeks before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the many measures being taken now by authorities all around the world give us confidence and keep us fully committed to delivering Olympic Games that can bring the world together in peace.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the North American hockey league had temporarily suspended its season in a statement issued after a conference call with the board of governors while Major League Baseball is set to delay the start of the regular season.

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