The latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting sports around the globe:
- Italy seeks to postpone Alpine skiing worlds to 2022
- Japan Prime Minister Abe says vaccine a priority for Olympics
- Basketball’s EuroLeague cancels season
- French tennis federation approves support fund
- Japanese baseball season to start June 19
- UFC promises strict COVID-19 test for Saturday’s event
Alpine skiing worlds in Italy may be pushed to 2022
The Italian Winter Sports Federation would like to postpone next year’s Alpine skiing world championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo until March 2022.
Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago revealed the plans during an interview with RAI state TV on Sunday night.
Malago says “this is the best solution” in order to avoid the championships being cancelled or shortened after the fallout in Italy from the coronavirus pandemic.
Malago says FISI would officially send the request to the International Ski Federation’s board on Monday.
Cortina was already forced to cancel the World Cup finals in March this year due to the advancing virus.
Moving the worlds to March 2022 would put the event one month after the 2022 Beijing Olympics and likely force FIS to cancel that season’s finals in Meribel and Courchevel, France.
The Cortina worlds are currently scheduled for Feb. 7-21, 2021.
Japan’s Shinzo Abe says vaccine a priority for Olympics
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the swift development of vaccines and effective treatments for COVID-19 are priorities towards achieving the Tokyo Olympics next year.
Abe says recovery from the coronavirus pandemic only in Japan would not be enough to hold the Games because it involves spectators and athletes from around the world.
He reiterates that the government hopes to hold the Tokyo Games “in a complete form” with spectators as a proof of human victory against the coronavirus.
Japan and the International Olympic Committee have agreed to postpone the Games by one year to July 2021.
Experts say developing an effective and safe vaccine by the Games next year will be difficult.
Basketball’s EuroLeague cancels season due to virus
Europe’s top basketball league cancelled the remainder of its season Monday because of the coronavirus pandemic, saying health concerns had to be paramount despite numerous attempts to find ways to resume play.
The EuroLeague, which is composed of 18 teams across 10 European nations, had been suspended since March 12. League officials said they “explored every possible option” in trying to find a way to resume the season.
“Without a doubt, this is the most difficult decision we have had to take in our 20-year history,” Euroleague Basketball president and CEO Jordi Bertomeu said. “Due to reasons beyond our control, we have been forced to cut short the most successful and exciting season in European basketball history.”
The news came only two days after the NBA announced it, along with the National Basketball Players Association, has entered discussions with The Walt Disney Company on a single-site scenario for a resumption of play in Central Florida in late July.
French tennis federation approves support fund
The French tennis federation will set aside nine million euros ($9.8 million US) for its players who financially struggle as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The money will come from a larger 35-million euro ($38.1 million) support plan for French tennis as a whole. It will go to the players ranked outside the Top 100 who won’t receive any compensation from tennis’ international governing bodies.
Bernard Giudicelli, the president of the French tennis federation, told a conference call Monday that 66 male players and 39 female professionals will benefit from the allocation. Beach tennis and paddle tennis players, as well as wheelchair professionals and players with disabilities, can also sign up to the scheme.
The support plan will be operational from June 3 and will last until Aug. 31, 2021. It will also help clubs, coaches, instructors, umpires, other officials and tournament organizers affected by the health crisis.
The men’s and women’s professional tours are suspended until at least July 13.
Japanese baseball season to start June 19 minus fans
Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19 under a plan that excludes fans.
League commissioner Atsushi Saito made the announcement Monday after an online meeting with representatives of the league’s 12 teams. Clubs can begin intra-squad games on June 2.
The announcement came as the state of emergency was lifted in Tokyo and on the northern island of Hokkaido by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The state of emergency was lifted earlier this month for other parts of the country.
The season was to have begun on March 20 but the start was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Japan has reported about 850 deaths from COVID-19.
Japan joins South Korea and Taiwan whose leagues are open and playing largely without fans.
UFC vows strict COVID-19 test for May 30 event
Testing by the UFC for COVID-19 will come with more stringent guidelines ahead of this weekend’s event in Las Vegas.
UFC sent a memo, released by MMAJunkie.com, to fighters who will compete Saturday in Las Vegas at UFC Apex Arena, part of UFC headquarters, outlining the more detailed and stricter protocol in place in Nevada this weekend.
UFC will require athletes to take two COVID-19 antigen oropharyngeal swab tests prior to competing: one at athlete hotel check-in and the second following Friday’s official weigh-in.
Following the second test, athletes should “self-isolate within the athlete hotel and remain inside overnight” until their scheduled departure to the UFC Apex on Saturday afternoon.
“During this time, no athletes or cornermen will be permitted to leave the Athlete Hotel without express prior approval from the Nevada State Athletic Commission,” the memo states. “You also should not have physical contact with anyone other than the members of your camp.”
Spanish soccer clubs can train with 14 players
Spanish league clubs are now allowed to train with groups of up to 14 players as the league stays on track to restart in less than three weeks.
Only 10 players were allowed in group training last week because of confinement restrictions that are gradually being lifted across the hard-hit southern European nation where nearly 30,000 people have died with COVID-19.
Group training sessions are part of the penultimate phase before teams can be considered ready to return to competition. Full squad sessions are expected to begin next week, depending on how the coronavirus pandemic progresses.
Players were only allowed to practice individually during the first stage of training.
Spanish league president Javier Tebas said the schedule for the first four rounds after the league resumes is expected to be announced in early June, with all matches expected to take place in empty stadiums. Spanish authorities don’t expect fans to be allowed in sports events at least until after the summer.
The league was suspended in mid-March with 11 rounds remaining. Defending champion Barcelona had a two-point lead over Real Madrid.
Top women’s soccer league scrapped in England
The top women’s soccer league in England has been cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Football Association says a decision was taken to end the Women’s Super League with immediate effect following “overwhelming feedback from the clubs” and to give them the chance to “prepare and focus on next season.”
Manchester City was leading the league by a point from Chelsea, which had a game in hand. Arsenal was a further three points behind and also had a game in hand on City.
Recommendations for sporting outcomes such as which team should represent England in the Women’s Champions League next season will be sent to the FA board.
The second-tier Women’s Championship has also been cancelled.