Major sporting events postponed over virus

Ireland celebrates with fans after winning qualifier champion on day three of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens last year. Photo: Getty Images
Ireland celebrates with fans after winning qualifier champion on day three of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens last year. Photo: Getty Images
Major sporting events set to be hosted in China over the coming months including rugby sevens, Formula One and golf have been postponed due the coronavirus outbreak.

The Hong Kong leg of the Sevens World Series will be postponed later on Thursday due to the coronavirus outbreak in China, according to a local media report.

The Hong Kong sevens, which arguably popularised and globalised the shortened version of rugby in the 1990s and is considered the marquee stop on the 10-tournament circuit, was due to be held from April 3-5.

Organisers said as late as two weeks ago they thought the tournament would take place, but the virus that has killed more than 1100 people has forced them to shift the event to October, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.

The Hong Kong Rugby Union refused to confirm the postponement, although Chief Executive Robbie McRobbie told the newspaper an announcement would be made by governing body World Rugby later on Thursday.

Olympic champions Fiji have won the last five Hong Kong titles, while New Zealand lead the standings of the current series.

If confirmed, the tournament joins a long list of international sports events in Asia that have been cancelled, postponed or moved because of the virus, most notably the indoor world athletics championships in Nanjing from March 13-15.

China Grand Prix at Shanghai International Circuit last year. Photo: Getty Images
China Grand Prix at Shanghai International Circuit last year. Photo: Getty Images

Chinese Grand Prix 

Formula One's Chinese Grand Prix has also been postponed due to virus, the organisers said.

The race, in an important market for Formula One, was originally set to be held in Shanghai on the 19th but the governing FIA and Formula One said they had jointly agreed to postpone it.

"As a result of continued health concerns and with the World Health Organisation declaring the coronavirus as a global health emergency, the FIA and Formula One have taken these measures," the two bodies said in a statement.

"All parties will take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates for the Grand Prix later in the year should the situation improve."

The flu-like virus has killed more than 1,100 people and infected more than 44,000 in China after it first emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

A host of international sporting events have been cancelled due to coronavirus, including the all-electric Formula E motor racing series that abandoned plans for a race in the Chinese city of Sanya next month.

Formula One chairman and chief executive Chase Carey said fitting the race back into an already packed calendar with few spare weekends would pose a challenge, however.

"At this point it's tough to make too many specific plans when there are so many unknowns around it," he told Reuters at a conference in the Azeri capital and Formula One host Baku.

Renault F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul, speaking at a team launch event in Paris, welcomed the fact a decision had come before sea freight was sent next week.

"The fact we know this week will avoid unnecessary aggravation from a cost perspective," he told Reuters.

"The Chinese race is an important race on the calendar and China and the U.S. are the two strategic priorities for (Formula One's commercial rights holder) Liberty Media and we support that," he added.

"We hope that there will be another slot even though I know it will be challenging to find one this season."

PGA Tour

The PGA Tour Series-China is postponing two qualifying tournaments and delaying the start of its season by two months because of the coronavirus epidemic, it said.

The decision to put back the start of the season until late May or early June comes a week after tour officials decided to move a global qualifying tournament out of China because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The flu-like virus has killed more than 1100 people and infected more than 44,000 in China after it first emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

"We watched and scrutinised the situation closely, and we did not make this decision lightly," PGA Tour Series-China Executive Director Greg Carlson said in a news release.

"After consultation with a variety of agencies, we determined postponement of the Qualifying Tournaments and the start of the regular season are the best courses of action at this time.

"This is a major international health issue, and we will do everything possible to ensure the safety and well-being of our players and everybody else associated with these two tournaments."

The tour's first qualifier, open only to Chinese passport holders, was held last month in Guangzhou. The remaining two qualifiers, scheduled for Indonesia and Thailand, are open to players from outside China and the tour will aim to stage them in late April or early May.

The sixth regular season of the developmental circuit, which serves as a feeder tour for the Korn Ferry Tour, was scheduled for 14 tournaments but will now consist of 10 events.

The season was originally set to get underway with the March 26-29 Sanya Championship followed by events in Haikou, Chongqing and Guangzhou, but all four tournaments have been postponed.

"We appreciate the patience our players have shown during what is a difficult time as they try to prepare for their seasons," Carlson said.

"At the same time, we don't want to do anything that might jeopardise the health of them or anybody else who is involved in PGA Tour Series-China." 

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