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Coronavirus killing sports

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BUSINESSDAILY 13 MAR 2020

The first victim of the COVID-19 global epidemic in Kenya is an international sporting event, the 2020 Magical Kenya Open. On March 6, 2020, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe announced a 30-day ban on all meetings and conferences of an international nature which included the Magical Kenya Open.

With 144 players, 100 plus caddies and nearly 200 TV, media and European tour officials expected to arrive in Kenya, the ban was seen as a pre-emptive strike against the coronavirus.

Reacting to the ban chairman of the Kenya Open Golf Ltd Peter Kanyago said they respect the government decision and that they would work towards rescheduling the event.

“We support the efforts of our government in safeguarding our country against the possible entry of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” he said. “I have conveyed the decision to the European Tour and they have assured us of their full support. We will be announcing new dates for the championship in due course.”

The Magical Kenya Open becomes the third event on the European Tour calendar to suffer the effects of the coronavirus. The Volvo China Open and the Maybank Malaysia Open, both scheduled in April 2020 were earlier postponed by the European Tour who cited the well-being of their players, spectators and staff.

“While it is regrettable that the Maybank Championship and Volvo China Open have been postponed, we feel this is the correct course of action at this time. We are currently investigating alternative dates for both events,” said Keith Pelly, the European Tour CEO (www.europeantour.com).

Unfortunately for the sporting world, things are getting worse; by the time of going to press, Italy was in total lockdown.

Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte announced that restrictions in place in the north of the country were being extended:

“All the measures of the red zones are now extended to all of the national territory,” Conte said (www.edition.cnn.com). All Serie A games, which were initialled to be played without any spectators have now been postponed indefinitely (www.edition.cnn.com). Indeed all sport in Italy has been suspended including the Six Nations rugby union matches. “The fans have to deal with it,” added PM Conte. “We wont event allow gyms to be used.”

Other sporting events that have been adversely affected by the coronavirus include, the 2020 Formula One Chinese Grand Prix, the Hong Kong Marathon, the World Athletics Indoor Championships scheduled for Nanjing, China, the Tokyo Marathon, which had 38,000 runners registered, the Pyongyang Marathon in North Korea, the Paris half marathon with 44,000 runners registered, the Badminton Asia Championship was affected after China and Hong Kong withdrew and still in Badminton, the 2020 German Open, an Olympic qualifier was cancelled.

The International Basketball Federation has moved Olympic qualifiers from Foshan, China to Belgrade and the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association league has postponed all its games.

The NBA’s Basketball Africa League, which was scheduled for Dakar, Senegal has also been postponed.

In golf, the LPGA has cancelled the Blue Bay tournament that was to be held in Hainan and the Honda LPGA event scheduled in Pattaya, Thailand. The HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore has also been cancelled. In Rugby, the World Rugby Sevens series legs in Singapore and Hong Kong were postponed to later in the year.

Both local organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the International Olympic Committee have said the Tokyo games will not be cancelled or postponed. However, an article in the Bleacher Report, published a week ago, quotes International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound saying; “the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are more likely to be cancelled than moved or rescheduled.”

The Coronavirus outbreak, must give the IOC a sense of déjà vu — in 2016 they had to deal with fears from the Zika virus. At that time the WHO advised pregnant women not to travel to countries affected by the Zika virus including Brazil, host of the Rio Games.

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