Growing fears related to the global spread of coronavirus have begun to manifest themselves into official decisions to postpone, alter or cancel events (in Italy and China) with large groups of people gathered together in one concentrated location. With the novel virus not going away anytime soon, sports leagues and organizers of sporting events are weighing whether to take immediate action or wait-and-see approaches.
What is known at this point is that these entities are acknowledging that the disease presents some sort of threat to their plans. As such, here's a rundown of where some of the biggest sports around the world and in the United States stand with their plans surrounding the virus.
The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo is the biggest global sporting event of the year, and organizers have alreadythat the disease could cause problems for the event. The status of the games could be up in the air . By all accounts, it seems like the IOC is going to do all it can to keep the event going, given that a cancellation would result in losses of tens of billions of dollars and severe financial devastation for sports governing bodies that require Olympic income to survive.
Japan's Olympic minister Seiko Hashimotothat the contract the IOC has with the country states the organization "has the right to cancel the games only if they are not held during 2020," with no specific dates mentioned.
"This can be interpreted to mean the games can be postponed as long as they are held during the calendar year," Hashimoto added.
Naturally, the IOC quickly put together a statement reiterating "full commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, taking place from July 24 to Aug. 9, 2020."
The flame lighting ceremony will also.
For what it's worth, Tokyo has already had to run a major sports event around the outbreak. The 2020 Tokyo marathon was supposed to include around 38,000 participants in the race, but organizersand prevented the public from attending.
Unsurprisingly, the country that first saw coronavirus infect its citizens, China, had an event that was scheduled to be in the city of Nanjing postponed to next year. The World Athletics Indoor Championships were meant to take place from March 13-15 but will now take place in March 2021.
The regular season is on track to finish on April 15, and the NBA Playoffs are scheduled to go on as scheduled, . League spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement to Yahoo Sports that the health and safety of the employees, team, players and fans is paramount. "We are coordinating with our teams and consulting with the CDC and infectious disease specialists on the coronavirus, and continue to monitor the situation closely."
The league has sent out advice to players on how to avoid the potential spread of the virus while playing a contact-friendly sport. Among the stranger suggestions was that playersand instead stick with fist bumps.
The NBA has also nowasking them to come up with contingency plans for playing games in empty arenas, with only essential personnel in attendance and no spectators. In response, LeBron James , "I ain't playing if I ain't got the fans in the crowd. That's who I play for."
Canada, which is home to seven of the 31 teams in the NHL, has about 20 confirmed cases of the coronavirus nationwide. The NHL regular season is set to continue as scheduled with the final day on April 6 and the Stanley Cup Playoffs beginning shortly after. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN: "We are in regular communication with our clubs on the issue and have passed along best practices being recommended by CDC and Public Health Canada medical experts."Only twice since 1893 has the Stanley Cup not been won; the first of those instances was when the finals were called off because of an influenza outbreak in the U.S. and Canada in 1919. The other was due to the 2004-05 NHL lockout.
New reports emerged on March 7 that the CDC gave the league a tangible recommendation for how to combat the potential spread of the virus and that theto conduct interviews, or any other reason. Regular press conferences will still happen, but the traditional image of a reporter sticking a mic or recorder in the face of a half-dressed, sweaty player is done in hockey, for now.
The National College Players Association, a nonprofit advocating for the rights and safety of collegiate athletes, has reportedly asked the NCAA to encourage fans to stay away from tournament games, citing concerns about the disease. "In the wake of the emerging coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA and its colleges should take precautions to protect college athletes," the group said in a statement released Saturday. "In regard to the NCAA's March Madness tournament and other athletic events, there should be a serious discussion about holding competitions without an audience present. ...The NCAA and its colleges must act now, there is no time to waste."
In response, the NCAAto keep an eye on how the virus is progressing. The panel consists of experts in the public health, epidemiology and medical fields.
"We are actively monitoring COVID-19 in the United States and will make recommendations on competition based on the evolving medical protocols established by the CDC, NIH and state and local authorities," said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline.
Individual teams and conferences have also taken steps to try and stop the spread of coronavirus. Chicago State basketball announced Tuesday it will, and the Atlantic 10 conference is for the conference tournament.
In Baltimore, a Division III men's basketball NCAA Tournament game between Yeshiva University and Worcester Polytechnic Institutedue to coronavirus-related fears and is believed to be the first U.S. sporting event where fans were not allowed, due to virus concerns. The only people allowed were players, coaches, referees, employees and media members, so the official attendance was 0. Yeshiva would go on to win the game 102-78.
Add the Southeastern Conference to the list of sports organizations that are cautiously observing the spread of coronavirus and waiting for things to get a bit worse before deciding to do anything too drastic. In a, the SEC said, "At this time, the Conference has not modified any scheduled events while reminding everyone to be attentive to everyday preventive actions identified by the Centers for Diseason Control and Prevention."
The first jewel of the Triple Crown is planned to go on as scheduled with the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. According to WRDB-TV in Louisville, Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said he and the company are monitoring the spread of the coronavirus, but he does not see a path where it affects attendance in a meaningful way. "We have a lot of time to monitor and learn and study the best protocols to put in place if [the coronavirus], in fact, becomes relevant for our event," Carstanjen said. "Our team will be very, very focused on that and pay attention to that."
Italy has shut down its fair share of soccer games due to concerns about the disease. Five matches, including one that had serious implications for the title race, were postponed in the wake of a coronavirus outbreak in the country. Over 1,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus. Cafes and schools all around the country have been closed as a result. Serie A side Juventus were particularly cautious with their U-23 team, telling each player to remain at home until March 8 after it came out that three players from their last opponent came down with the disease.
Additionally, all Italian sporting eventsuntil April 3, according to a new decree from the Italian government. Games will continue as scheduled, and the games postponed from last week will take place on Saturday.
France's sports minister Roxana Maracineanu announced that crowds of 1,000-plus fans are banned from attending sporting events in the country. The Canadian women's soccer team is slated to face Brazil in Calasis on Tuesday.
The premier event on the WWE schedule, WrestleMania 36 is scheduled to take place in Tampa, Florida on April 5, and as the biggest show of the year for the biggest promotion in the world, the company is monitoring the spread of the virus. Speaking in her role as the chief brand officer of the WWE, Stephanie McMahon told the Tampa Bay Times what the company's focus is. "The health and safety of not only our fan base, but also our superstars, really does come first," McMahon said. "We don't want to put anyone in a bad situation ever, regardless of the circumstance. Those are not risks worth taking."
The opening MotoGP race of the season was scheduled to take place next weekend in Qatar, but organizers have decided to cancel the motorcycle racing event because of the coronavirus-related travel restrictions on those arriving from Italy. Those who have arrived from Italy, or have been to Italy over the last couple weeks, will be quarantined for 14 days. Italian rider Andrea Dovizioso was the winner of last year's race, and the organization itself stated "Italy clearly plays a vital role in the Championship and in the MotoGP class - both on track and off - and therefore the decision has been taken to cancel the premier class competition," per the Associated Press.
The PGA Tourthat the organization is "closely monitoring all available information related to the continued spread of the Novel Coronavirus COVIC-19," and with their findings, they concluded that "there are no planned schedule changes beyond what has already been decide with the PGA Tour Series-China (a delay to the start of the season)."
While not directly related to the season or any particular teams, the coronavirus still found a way to affect an NFL-adjacent event. San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostertthat was meant to take place next Sunday because of concerns about the disease. He cited his young child and the fact that he has another baby on the way as reasons for this cancellation.
Major League Baseball has offered the typical precautions when it comes to limiting contact with fans and other players which include not taking balls or pens directly from fans for autographs, and just not doing handshakes during spring training. Those precautions have no extended to media members. Those who have visited "high risk areas"--which the CDC has defined as China, Iran, Italy and South Korea--will be. No other amendments to the media policy are being made at this time.
In addition, Nippon Professional Baseball, which is Japan's professional baseball league, is delaying the start of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus outbreak. It was slated to start on March 20, but that is being rescheduled for April.
The tennis world is now beginning to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. On Sunday, the BNP Paribas Openbecause the Coachella Valley is under a public health emergency. The event was slated to take place from March 9 to 22 in Indian Wells, Calif. and is annually one of the most important ATP events on the tennis calendar.