Will the coronavirus outbreak impact major sporting events?

  • Video report by ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott

The coronavirus outbreak continues to have an impact on the sporting schedule as some of 2020's biggest events come into view.

A range of sports have had to take action to prevent the spread of the virus, with postponements hitting the Six Nations, Formula One and Serie A among others.

With spectacles such as Euro 2020, the Olympics and Paralympics, and golf's majors on the horizon, here is a look at the impact of the coronavirus on sports.

Olympics and Paralympics

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach reiterated on Tuesday that the IOC remained "fully committed to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020".

Mr Bach's statement came despite the event being threatened by the fast spread of the coronavirus that has been blamed for 12 deaths in Japan and has shut down most schools, sports competitions and Olympic-related events in the country.

"There is a task force in place since mid-February and following the regular information from this task force...we remain very confident with regard to the success of these Olympic Games Tokyo 2020," Bach said.

He encouraged all athletes hoping to compete at the Games to continue their preparation "with great confidence".

Mr Bach's comments came after Japan's Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto suggested the Games could be postponed until later in the year.

Speculation that the Olympics and Paralympics could be delayed had mounted earlier in the day after Ms Hashimoto told the Japanese parliament that the organising committee's agreement with the IOC could allow for such a scenario.

She said: "The contract calls for the Games to be held within 2020.

"That could be interpreted as allowing a postponement."

The Olympics have been cancelled only three times, all during wartime.

A wheelchair rugby test event ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games was cancelled on Tuesday.


UEFA is optimistic the European Championships - last won by Portugal in 2016 - will go ahead. Credit: AP

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has said he is confident this summer's Euro 2020 - which is scheduled to be held in 12 cities across the continent - will go ahead as planned.

He said: "Let's try to be optimistic and not think about dark scenarios.

"There's time for that later."

UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis added: "We have been working on detailed scenarios, and don't forget - the Euros starts in June.

"We have plenty of matches in the next couple of weeks, so there are different scenarios which we are not allowed to share further details of right now.

"But I assure you that yes, there are plans for everything.

"We do not want to start speculating at this stage.

"We want to take it very seriously, case by case, involving the different stakeholders.

"We do not want to start speculating on what may happen in three or four months' time."

Also on Tuesday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino urged football authorities not to "panic", having said just days earlier that if "games have to be postponed or played without spectators until it is over, then we have to go through that".

Meanwhile, England manager Gareth Southgate was relaxed about the possibility of games at Euro 2020 being played without fans in the stadia.

He said: "We had a closed-door game against Croatia, so that was a strange experience.

"But as far as we're aware that isn't going to be the case, but of course that picture can change from day to day."

However, Dominique Blanc, the President of the Swiss FA, said he is "sure" the virus will have an impact on Euro 2020.

He said: "The virus will have an impact.

"We cannot say at the moment how high this impact will be but, sure, that will have an impact, I'm sure."

Games during the March international break could come under scrutiny, including England's friendly against Italy on March 27.

Six top-flight fixtures in Italy, where four Euro 2020 matches are scheduled to take place, were postponed over the weekend and Monday, as were games in Japan and South Korea.

The Swiss Football League has been suspended until March 23.

Pre-season matches at the International Champions Cup scheduled to take place in Asia have also been postponed, while Scotland boss Steve Clarke decided not to travel to the Nations League draw in Amsterdam on Tuesday as it was deemed "an unnecessary risk".

Premier League club Wolves announced players and staff have been asked to avoid any unnecessary public engagements, and not to pose for selfies or sign autographs.

Scottish football's coronavirus response group has told players and match officials not to shake hands before and after matches.

Rugby Union

There are no planned delays to the Six Nations. Credit: PA

Six Nations organisers are not planning on any additional postponements.

England's clash with Italy in Rome on March 14 is among the five surviving fixtures that are scheduled to go ahead.

Italy's away game against Ireland in Dublin - due to take place on March 7 - was called off last week.

It is hoped the England women and under-20 teams will have their final weekend fixtures moved from their current location in northern Italy where the virus has resulted in towns being locked down.

England prop Mako Vunipola was ruled out of Saturday's game with Wales as he is in self-isolation as a precaution due to coronavirus fears after flying back from Tonga via Hong Kong, the PA news agency understands.

Formula One

The situation is being monitored by F1. Credit: PA

The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) has said it is monitoring the situation.

A statement read: "Following the coronavirus epidemic that broke out at the beginning of the year and, to date, has mainly affected China, the FIA is closely monitoring the evolving situation with relevant authorities and its member clubs, under the direction of FIA medical commission president, professor Gerard Saillant.

"The FIA will evaluate the calendar of its forthcoming races and, if necessary, take any action required to help protect the global motor sport community and the wider public."

Grand Prix organisers had insisted the opening two rounds of the Formula One season in Australia (March 15) and Bahrain (March 22) would go ahead as scheduled.

F1 personnel who have visited high-risk countries within 14 days of their arrival in the Gulf Kingdom will be subjected to an extensive screening process.

The Chinese Grand Prix, which had been due to take place in Shanghai on April 19, was postponed.


There have been disruptions in the schedule for MotoGP. Credit: PA

The opening race of the MotoGP season, the Grand Prix of Qatar due to take place from March 6-8, was cancelled due to the travel restrictions imposed in the country.

On Monday, the second race on this year's calendar - the Thailand Grand Prix, scheduled for March 22 - was also postponed, with organisers evaluating when the event could go ahead.


Several events in Asia have already been postponed and Italy's Lorenzo Gagli tested negative for the virus before being allowed to compete in last week's Oman Open.

The European Tour said on Sunday that the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which gets under way on Thursday, was due to go ahead as scheduled.


Fears of two cases of the coronavirus at the UAE Tour saw the race cancelled with two stages left and all riders, including Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish, put under lockdown.

Dane Michael Morkov had already left the race for the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin, where he was confined to his hotel room, but he was freed to race after the two individuals at the heart of the UAE scare tested negative.


A number of events have been cancelled in the tennis season. Credit: PA

A number of ATP Challenger Tour events scheduled to take place in China in March and April have been cancelled, while the final of the Challenger in Bergamo, Italy, last month was also called off.

The Davis Cup qualifier between Japan and Ecuador in Miki on March 6-7 will be played behind closed doors, while China have withdrawn from their Davis Cup World Group I play-off against Romania on the same dates.

The WTA announced that the Xi'an Open (April 13-19) and Kunming Open (April 27-May 3) - both set to be held in China - were cancelled, but, as things stand, were proceeding with the remainder of the season as planned.


The World Indoor Championships, which had been due to take place in Nanjing in China this month, have been called off.

The Hong Kong Marathon - scheduled for February 8 - was also cancelled.

Organisers of the London Marathon have confirmed they are monitoring the situation ahead of next month's race.

Event director Hugh Brasher said: "We are monitoring closely the developments relating to the spread of coronavirus and noting the updates and advice given by the UK Government, the World Health Organisation and other UK public bodies.

"With just under eight weeks to go before the event on Sunday 26 April, we will continue to monitor the situation."


The Ireland boxing squad cut short a pre-Olympic qualifier training camp in Italy as a precautionary measure last week, following an outbreak of the virus in the country.

Meanwhile, all boxing shows scheduled for March in Japan have been cancelled.


Some tournaments have been cancelled. Credit: PA

The Badminton World Federation has not yet made any adjustments to its Olympic qualification rules despite the cancellation of some tournaments in which ranking points were available.

The German Open (March 3-8), Polish Open (March 26-29) and Vietnam International Challenge (March 24-29) have been postponed or cancelled after the China Masters (February 25-March 1) was called off last month. The BWF has said not enough tournaments have yet been hit for changes to be made.


The £1million China Open, scheduled to start in Beijing at the end of March, has been cancelled.

Ice Skating

The World Short Track Speed Skating Championships, scheduled to take place in Seoul this month, have been called off.


The World Triathlon Series event scheduled for March 5-7 in Abu Dhabi was delayed.

Event organisers said they hoped to reschedule the event to take place later in March or April.


The world cup may be staged without fans in attendance. Credit: PA

Yanqing was set to host a round of the FIS World Cup over February 15-16, but the event was cancelled by the governing body amid the growing concerns.

The World Cup finals, which are scheduled to take place in northern Italy this month, will reportedly be staged without any fans in attendance.


Czech authorities confirmed on Monday afternoon that this week's World Biathlon Cup in South Moravia would be closed to spectators.


The Professional Darts Corporation said it currently has no plans to cancel any events, but has told players they can avoid shaking hands with their opponents while fans have been warned it "may be more difficult to obtain autographs or pictures with players".