LONDON (Reuters) – The global sporting calendar has been shredded by the coronavirus pandemic, with men’s tennis shut down for six weeks, top European soccer leagues on hold and the NBA having announced a suspension until further notice.
Poignantly, the Olympic flame was lit in ancient Olympia but the road to the Tokyo Olympics appears, at present, a distant one with the spread of the virus impacting across all sports.
Men’s tennis’s ATP Tour announced that no tournaments would take place until after April 20 at the earliest, wiping out the prestigious Miami Open and Monte Carlo Opens as well as tournaments in Houston and Marrakech.
“This is not a decision that was taken lightly and it represents a great loss for our tournaments, players, and fans worldwide,” the ATP’s chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said.
“However we believe this is the responsible action needed at this time in order to protect the health and safety of our players, staff, the wider tennis community and general public health in the face of this global pandemic.”
Earlier this week the Indian Wells tournament was canceled, while the International Tennis Federation postponed the revamped Fed Cup Finals set for Budapest in April.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) took the decision on Wednesday to suspend the season until further notice after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus.
“The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic,” a statement said.
While chaos escalated elsewhere, Formula One was apparently carrying on regardless with the Australian Grand Prix likely to go ahead despite the McLaren team withdrawing after a team member tested positive for coronavirus.
Mercedes’ six times world champion Lewis Hamilton told reporters earlier that it was “shocking” the race could go ahead and suggested organizers had put financial concerns ahead of people’s health.
Spain and the Netherlands became the latest nations to suspend all soccer leagues.
The next two rounds of La Liga fixtures were postponed. Real Madrid put its squad into quarantine after a member of the club’s basketball team tested positive on Thursday.
“Given the circumstances that are coming to light this morning, referring to the quarantine established in Real Madrid and the possible cases in players from other clubs, La Liga considers it appropriate to continue to the next phase of the protocol of action against COVID-19,” said La Liga.
Italy’s Serie A has already stopped until at least April 3 with the country in lockdown after 12,000 infections and 800 deaths. Two Serie A players, Sampdoria’s Manolo Gabbiadini and Daniele Rugani, of Juventus, have tested positive.
England’s Premier League was waiting to discover whether or not it would continue, or have matches played behind closed doors, with the government expected to move its response to the coronavirus crisis from the “contain” phase to the “delay” phase at an emergency “Cobra” committee meeting.
With many other European leagues either suspended or playing without fans in stadiums, the fate of this year’s Euro 2020 championship being played across 12 cities remains unclear.
Governing body UEFA said it will hold a meeting of all 55 football federations in Europe to discuss the impact of the coronavirus on all domestic and European competitions.
Two of Thursday’s Europa League matches have been postponed, while it looks highly unlikely that next week’s Champions League clash between Manchester City and Real Madrid will be played.
Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States also announced that the season was suspended until further notice.
Some events were continuing though, with the first round under way at golf’s Players Championship at Sawgrass.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Peter Graff)