Australian Grand Prix, players golf canceled as coronavirus shuts down sport

Sydney: The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on sport swept into the southern hemisphere on Friday with the cancellation of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix adding to an unprecedented shutdown of elite events and competitions around the globe.

Top European soccer leagues were placed on hold, while the elite men’s tennis circuit was suspended for six weeks, the NHL shut down and golf’s prestigious Players Championship canceled.

The Olympics, the biggest sports event of them all, go ahead as planned, Tokyo organizers insisted on Friday, a few hours after the flame was lit in ancient Olympia at the start of the torch relay.

The coronavirus outbreak has left sport administrators wrestling with the inherent contradiction of holding events designed to bring large numbers of people together at a time when governments are desperate to stop the spread of a virus transmitted by close contact.

England’s hugely popular Premier League will hold an emergency meeting on Friday after Arsenal announced that club manager Mikel Arteta had tested positive for the coronavirus, reported Reuters.

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers, who has three players in self-isolation after showing symptoms of the virus, said England should follow the lead of Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands in suspending the season.

“There is absolutely no doubt, from a logical perspective. There’s the public health and ethical side as well,” he said.

With fans queuing at the gates of Albert Park in Melbourne early on Friday for the Formula One season-season opener, the race was canceled just a few hours before the cars were scheduled to take to the track for the first time.

The decision came after a member of the McLaren team tested positive for the coronavirus and the British-based outfit scratched from the race, which attracts some 300,000 fans every year.

In Tokyo, top Japanese government officials said they were determined to hold a “safe and secure” Olympics on schedule, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said organizers should consider delaying them for a year because of the pandemic.

Fans at golf’s Players Championship at least got to see the first round at Sawgrass on Thursday before the PGA announced a ban on spectators at all its events until April 5.

Players and caddies were later informed the tournament had been canceled.

In tennis, the men’s ATP Tour announced on Thursday that no tournaments would take place until after April 20 at the earliest, wiping out the prestigious Miami Open and Monte Carlo Masters as well as events in Houston, Marrakech and Barcelona.

The WTA, which runs the women’s tour, stopped short of a wholesale shut down but canceled tournaments in Charleston, Guadalajara and Bogota with a decision on the European claycourt season promised this week.

The Indian Wells tournament had already been canceled and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has suspended all its events until April 20, including the revamped version of the Fed Cup Finals scheduled for Budapest.

Source: Bahrain News Agency