A couple wears masks as they ride along a street in Beijing on Wednesday. (AP)
The outbreak of a new virus, which has led to multiple deaths, in China has forced the organisers of boxing and football Olympic qualifiers to cancel their events, which were scheduled to be held next month. The reported cancellation comes as China said the new strain of coronavirus has killed nine people and infected at least 440 others in the country, according to news agency AFP.
Neighbours not spared
Cases have also been reported outside China, in countries including the United States, South Korea, Japan and Thailand. The coronavirus has caused alarm for its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
While India weren’t a part of the football qualifiers, a 13-member team. comprising eight men and five women, were to compete in the boxing event. Both tournaments were to take place in central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated.
Boxing venue to be shifted
Original venue/dates: Wuhan/February 3 to 14
New venue/dates: Not announced yet
Indian interest: 13 boxers (8 men, 5 women)
Citing organisers, Japanese news agency Kyodo said the boxing qualifiers would be rescheduled and moved from Wuhan. On Wednesday, theIOC’s boxing task force confirmed the decision, adding that they will continue to work closely with the Chinese Olympic Committee and ‘explore alternatives’.
“The IOC Boxing Task Force noted today’s decision of the Local Organising Committee to cancel the Asian/Oceanian Tokyo 2020 boxing qualifying event… amid growing concerns in relation to the coronavirus outbreak reported in the city,” an IOC communication to national sports federations read. “The task force continues to work closely with the Chinese Olympic Committee and all partners to explore alternatives and will immediately inform National Olympic Committees, National Federations and officials on any development.” Website Inside the Games reported Phillipines has offered to host the event. No formal decision has been made yet. Boxing has struggled in the run-up to the 2020 Games, and was almost excluded from the Olympic programme, following a series of scandals. The amateur boxing body AIBA was stripped of the right to organise the Olympic competition and replaced with a special taskforce. Other measures have been introduced to rebuild trust in the sport, including a more transparent judging system.
AFC shifts football qualifiers to Nanjing
Original venue/dates: Wuhan/February 3 – 9
New venue/dates: Nanjing/February 3 – 9
Indian interest: None
Next month’s women’s Olympic football qualifiers in Wuhan have been shifted to Nanjing, the Asian Football Confederation said on Wednesday, following an outbreak of the new coronavirus in the central Chinese city. “The Asian Football Confederationhas agreed to the proposal by the Chinese Football Association to move the … Asian Qualifiers Final Round – Group B from Wuhan to Jiangning Football Training Centre in Nanjing,” the continental governing body said. The dates of the February 3-9 tournament remain unchanged with top two teams qualifying for the playoff against group B counterparts for the final two places, alongside host Japan, at the Tokyo Olympics.
Australia has issued a travel warning for Wuhan, asking visitors to “exercise a high degree of caution”, but their head coach said on Tuesday they were preparing for a Wuhan trip. Taiwan’sFA said on Wednesday the sports administration had asked the AFC in December to change the location due to fears about the health of players. If the venue was not changed then Taiwan’s team would not participate, the association added. Taiwan has called on people not to visit Wuhan unless they absolutely have to. —ENS/ Agencies