Great Britain

Top sporting events at risk as coronavirus continues to spread

A large number of the year’s prestigious sporting events are at risk as the coronavirus continues to spread around the globe, with the organisers of the Six Nations, the Cheltenham Festival, the Giro d’Italia, Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics all closely monitoring the situation after a significant increase in the number of cases worldwide.

Ireland’s men’s and women’s Six Nations matches against Italy in Dublin on 7 and 8 March were postponed on Wednesday on the recommendation of Ireland’s health minister and the National Public Health Emergency, with the possibility growing that the northern hemisphere’s rugby’s showpiece competition may not be completed for the first time since 1972.

With England due to face Italy in Rome on 14 March, the Rugby Football Union has sought advice from the government on whether it will be safe for players and fans to travel to the Italian capital, with the possibility the match could take place in an empty stadium.

The organisers of jump racing’s blue-riband meeting have insisted Cheltenham will go ahead from 10 March but leading trainers fear the worst after the total number of cases recorded around the world passed 80,000. In Italy the number of people infected is 400 and 12 people have died.

Cycling’s governing body admitted it could not say whether the Giro d’Italia will go ahead. The race begins in Budapest on 9 May, ends in Milan on 31 May, and passes through several of the worst-affected areas in northern Italy.

“The current state of the epidemic naturally has consequences on the organisation of sporting and cultural events in different regions of the world, such as that of events on the UCI international calendar, for example in Italy,” the ruling body said.

“It is not currently possible to predict in the medium term whether competitions in this country will be maintained or cancelled, given the rapidity with which new outbreaks are declared, like yesterday in Tuscany, Sicily and Liguria.”

The opening three races of the Formula One season, in Australia, Bahrain and Vietnam, could follow the Chinese Grand Prix by being postponed. Ferrari have announced the suspension of non-critical business travel as well as the restriction of external access to its factory in Maranello, 87 miles from the Italian outbreak in Codogno.

Uefa is monitoring the latest developments with regard to Euro 2020, with seven matches scheduled to take place at Wembley and four at Hampden Park, with another 10 host cities spread across the continent. There is also concern the Olympic Games could be affected after new cases in Japan were confirmed and the domestic top-flight football competition was called off until next month.

Dick Pound, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee, said outright cancellation of the Games, rather than postponement or relocation, would be likely if the disease proved too dangerous for the event – which is scheduled to start on 24 July – to go ahead. He estimated there is a three-month window – perhaps a two-month one – to decide the fate of the Tokyo Games, meaning a decision could be put off until late May.

“In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?’” Pound told Associated Press.