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The Impact of COVID-19 on Sport

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A poster promoting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is posted next to a train door as a commuter wearing a mask looks at his phone on a train in Tokyo. Photo: Photo/Jae C. Hong

By Dr. Fred J. Cromartie, Ed. D.  |

We are all aware that the COVID-19 outbreak is having an impact on all aspects of life around the world. This article will focus on the impact the pandemic has had on global sport. With the continued spread of the virus globally, sports leagues and bodies are cancelling and or postponing major sporting events.  

As sports fans of particular sports many are following to see and hear if their favorite sport is on that has been canceled or postponed.

In an article published in the new/health section of Aljazeera the author detailed those mega sporting events that are effected.  

 Soccer

According to the author, CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Nations League Finals, which were scheduled for June 4–7, have been suspended. The finals, due to be contested by Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and the United States and held in the Houston and Dallas areas of Texas, will be rescheduled for a later date in venues to be determined. 

Russia soccer (football) has been suspended until April 10. The Russian league was the best-attended sports competition still operating in Europe last weekend, with more than 33,000 fans at one of its games, but the Russian Football Union agreed to immediately suspend all competitions at a meeting on March 17. 

As for Germany, the top flight Bundesliga has been on hold since March 13, with the German Football League recommending clubs not to return to training until April 5. Bayern Munich football team announced their players will return to training “in small groups from Monday, 6 April” with no members of the public present. 

The African Nations Championship 2020 soccer tournament scheduled for April in Cameroon has been postponed indefinitely, the African Football Federation said in a statement on March 17. 

2020 Copa America has been postponed until 2021, the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) said on March 17. The 12-team tournament had originally been scheduled to take place from June 12 to July 12 in Colombia and Argentina. 

The Euro 2020 tournament has been postponed until 2021, European football’s governing body UEFA said in a statement on March 17. UEFA said that the 24-team tournament, which was due to be staged in 12 nations across the continent from June 12 to July 12 this year, would now take place from June 11 to July 11 2021.  

In England, all elite football has been suspended until at least April 30. 

UEFA on April 1 suspended all Champions League and Europa League matches “until further notice”. 

All national team games scheduled for June have been postponed. 

FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation have agreed to postpone the Asian World Cup qualifying matches in March and June. 

New seasons in the Chinese, Japanese and South Korean professional leagues have been postponed. 

Asian Champions League matches involving Chinese clubs Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG have been postponed. The start of the knockout rounds has been moved back to September. 

The Confederation of African Football has postponed two rounds of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers scheduled for March 25-31. 

An exhibition match between Mexico and Colombia on May 30 at Denver has been cancelled. 

The three divisions of England’s National League have also been suspended indefinitely. 

Marathons 

The London Marathon, which was scheduled to take place on April 26, has been postponed until October 4. 

The Boston Marathon, originally scheduled for April 4, is now expected to take place on September 14. 

Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona marathons have also been postponed.  

In Japan on March 1, the Tokyo Marathon, which usually attracts 300,000 participants, was restricted to only 200 elite runners. 

Olympic Games 

The International Olympic Committee and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have concluded the Tokyo 2020 Olympics must be postponed.  

The decision was made after holding out for weeks as local organizers and the IOC came under increasing pressure from athletes, national Olympic bodies and sports federations. 

The event is scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8, 2021.  

Track & Field (Athletics)  

The World Athletics Championships scheduled to take place in Oregon in August 2021 have been pushed back to July 2022 to avoid clashing with the rescheduled Olympic Games, the sport’s governing body said on April 8.  

World Athletics said in a statement that it “approved the new dates this week after extensive discussions with the sport’s stakeholders.” 

The World Athletics Indoor Championships, scheduled for Nanjing from March 13 to 15, have been postponed until next year. 

Formula One 

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix became the latest postponement in the calendar, meaning there will be no Formula One races until the middle of June at the earliest. 

The race at the Baku City Circuit was scheduled for June 7. 

Formula 1 has cancelled the season-opening Australian GP after a McLaren team member contracted the coronavirus. The race was scheduled to take place on March 15.  

The Bahrain Grand Prix and the Vietnam Grand Prix have been postponed. Those events were first scheduled to take place on March 20-22 and April 3-5 respectively. 

The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, which was scheduled to take place on April 19, was also called off.  

Races in the Netherlands, Spain and Monaco in May have all been postponed, the governing motorsport body FIA said on March 19.  

Formula One Canadian Grand Prix organizers announced on April 7 that the race in Montreal that was supposed to kick off the 2020 World Championship calendar will be postponed until further notice.  

Racing 

The Indianapolis 500 scheduled for May 24 has been postponed until August 23 and will not run on Memorial Day weekend for the first time since 1946. 

The French MotoGP initially scheduled for May 15-17 in Le Mans, was postponed because of the “ongoing coronavirus outbreak”, organizers announced on April 2. 

NASCAR 

There will be no racing at any track until May 9, when NASCAR hopes to get back on track at Martinsville Speedway. A total of seven Cup Series races have been postponed. It’s important to note that NASCAR races at Atlanta, Homestead, Texas, Bristol, Richmond, Talladega and Dover have been postponed, not canceled — at least not yet. NASCAR still intends to hold all 36 Cup Series races in 2020. 

Tennis 

The 2020 Wimbledon tennis championships have been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the All England Club announced on April 1. 

It is the first time the championships, due to take place between June 28 and July 11, have been called off since World War II. 

The professional tennis tour – men’s and women’s – has been suspended until June 7, with all clay-court tournaments in Europe cancelled. ATP and WTA rankings have been frozen until further notice.  

The US Women’s Open in Houston has been postponed from the end of spring to the middle of December. 

The USGA said that the rapid developments of COVID-19 have led the Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club to be postponed. Instead of being held June 4-7, the new date is December 10-13. 

The French Open has been postponed until September 20 – October 4, organizers said on March 17. The clay-court major was originally scheduled to be played from May 24-June 7. 

The Fed Cup tennis finals in Budapest have also been postponed.  

The revamped 12-team women’s competition scheduled for April 14-19 as well as a series of play-off ties were called off “in response to COVID-19 health concerns”, the ITF said in a statement. New dates have yet to be announced.  

There was also disappointment for tennis fans in California as the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells was cancelled. 

Also cancelled were the Xi’an Open, scheduled for April 13 to 19, and Kunming Open, scheduled for April 27 to May 3. Both events were to take place in China. 

In the United Kingdom, the Main Board of the All England Club (AELTC) and the Committee of Management of The Championships on April 1 decided to cancel the Wimbledon grasscourt Grand Slam, formally known as The Championships 2020. The 134th Championships will instead be staged from 28 June to 11 July 2021. 

Boxing 

The world boxing heavyweight title fight between Briton Anthony Joshua and the IBF’s mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria originally scheduled for June 20 has been postponed, promoters said. 

The Tokyo Olympic boxing qualifiers for Asia and Oceania were moved to Jordan from China. 

However, the European, American and final world qualifying boxing tournaments for the Olympic Games have been suspended, the International Olympic Committee said. 

Briton Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title defense against Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev would probably take place at the end of the year instead of June 20 at Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium in London as scheduled. 

Basketball 

The National Basketball Association (NBA) said on March 11 that it was suspending the season until further notice after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus. 

The WNBA draft will be a virtual event this year. The women’s league announced that its draft will still be held on April 17 as originally scheduled, but without players, fans or media in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) postponed the 2020 regular season as coronavirus continues spreading rapidly across the US and the world. 

“As developments continue to emerge around the COVID-19 pandemic, including the extension of the social distancing guidelines in the United States through April 30, the WNBA will postpone the start of its training camps and the tip of the regular season originally scheduled for May 15, 2020 “the WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement late Friday. 

“While the league continues to use this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats, our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans and employees,” Engelbert added. 

Rugby 

In France, the country’s rugby federation said on March 13 that it was suspending all of its competitions due to the outbreak. 

At least three Six Nations matches have been postponed. 

The women’s Six Nations game between Scotland and France was postponed after a Scottish player tested positive for coronavirus. 

The Singapore and Hong Kong legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series have been postponed from April to October. 

MotoGP 

The opening two rounds of the season in Qatar, which were scheduled for March 6-8, did not go ahead. The Thailand race, due to be held on March 22, has been postponed. 

April rounds in Texas and Argentina have been pushed back to November.  

The Spanish Grand Prix scheduled for May 3 has also been postponed. It is the fifth MotoGP race to be cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus. 

Table tennis 

The world championships in Busan, South Korea, have been pushed back provisionally from March to June.  

The April 21 to 26 World Tour Japan Open in Kitakyushu has been postponed. 

Golf 

The 2020 Masters Tournament has been provisionally rescheduled for November 12-15, Augusta National Golf Club has said. 

The 149th Open Championship due to be played at Royal St George’s from July 16-19 has been cancelled. “The R&A has decided to cancel The Open in 2020 due to the current Covid-19 pandemic,” the governing body said in a statement, adding that “the Championship will next be played at Royal St George’s in 2021”. 

The Trophée Hassan II in Morocco from June 4-7 was postponed and the Scandinavian Mixed tournament in Stockholm was canceled and will now be played in 2021. 

The Honda LPGA Thailand event and the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore have been cancelled. 

The Maybank Championship in Kuala Lumpur and the China Open have been postponed. 

The Indian and China opens have both been postponed. 

The Evian Masters women’s golf tournament has been moved to August. 

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open announced on March 30 that it would be postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The European Tour confirmed that the event, scheduled for 28-31 May at Mount Juliet, has been postponed following “consultation with all stakeholders”. 

Cycling 

Top one-day cycling races Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege have been postponed, organizers said on March 17. Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which were due to be held on April 12 and 26 respectively, are two of the five “Monument” races of the cycling calendar with the Tour of Flanders, Milan-Sanremo and the Tour of Lombardy. 

The Tour of Flanders and Milan-Sanremo have already been postponed. A new date has yet to be set for the races. 

The final two stages of the UAE Tour were cancelled after two Italian participants tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Four teams have pulled out of several cycling races in Italy. 

The Giro d’Italia start on May 9 in Budapest has been postponed. A new start date will not be determined until at least April 3. 

Meanwhile, the British Cycling will furlough around a third of their staff in April and May due to the financial impact of the pandemic.  

Baseball 

The final qualification tournament for the Olympics in Taiwan has been postponed from April to June. 

Japan and South Korea professional league has postponed the start of the new season. 

Major League Baseball (MLB), the US’s professional baseball league, suspended its “spring training”, a period in the off-season that features practices and exhibition games that allow trainers to test new players on different teams. 

The MLB also delayed its opening day, which was scheduled for March 26, for at least two weeks.  

MLB games scheduled to be played in Mexico City and San Juan, Puerto Rico, were cancelled.  

NCAA 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) cancelled scheduled games for both men and women. The cancellation extends to all championships scheduled in the spring, including hockey, baseball and lacrosse. 

Cricket 

The men’s Cricket World Cup Challenge League A, scheduled to begin on March 16 in Malaysia, was postponed. 

The Pakistan Cricket Board announced that Pakistan Super League matches in Karachi will be played with no spectators in the stadium. 

England’s two-match test series in Sri Lanka scheduled to start on March 19 was postponed. 

Judo 

The International Judo Federation cancelled all Olympic qualification events through to the end of April. 

Weightlifting 

The Asian Championships, scheduled to take place in Uzbekistan from April 16 to 25, have been cancelled. 

Winter sports 

The Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships in Canada have been cancelled. 

The World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Seoul, South Korea, have been postponed until at least October 2020. 

Australian Rules 

The AFL game between St Kilda Saints and Port Adelaide Power scheduled for May 31 in China has been moved to Melbourne. 

NHL  

The National Hockey League, suspended its season indefinitely on March 12.  

Wrestling 

The Asian Olympic qualifying event from March 27-29 was moved from Xi’an, China to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. 

On February 29, Kyrgyzstan withdrew as host. 

Horse racing  

The Dubai World Cup, one of the world’s richest horse races and a premier annual sporting event in the United Arab Emirates, scheduled for March 28, has been postponed to next year, Dubai’s government media office tweeted on March 22. 

The 146th running of the Kentucky Derby has been moved to September 5, 2020. It will be the first time the world-renowned horse race will not run on the first Saturday in May since 1945, when it was moved because of World War II. 

Badminton 

Badminton’s Thomas and Uber Cup Finals being staged in Aarhus, Denmark, have been postponed from May 16-24 to August 15-23. The biennial event features national teams. 

Sumo 

The Summer Grand Sumo Tournament has been postponed by two weeks from its scheduled May 10 start due to concerns over the coronavirus, according to the Japan Sumo Association. 

The annual 15-day tournament at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan is one of the six major sumo contests held in Japan every year. The Tokyo tournament is now scheduled to start on May 24, with the next competition to be held in Aichi Prefecture also delayed for two weeks. 

The comprehensive details of the impact and effect of the coronavirus on global sport were presented and the reader can see firsthand the number of sporting entities that have had to cancel and postpone major sporting events worldwide.  The exact economic impact of the coronavirus has yet to be determined and will be researched when sports start to emerge with major events being held.  

Dr. Cromartie is the Director of Doctoral Studies at the United States Sports Academy.

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