Coronavirus & sport: What now for Six Nations, Tokyo Olympics, F1, Euro 2020 & Cheltenham?

By Frank KeoghBBC Sport
The Olympic Games in Tokyo are less than five months away
The Olympic Games in Tokyo are less than five months away

With Six Nations rugby and Formula 1 already hit by fears over the coronavirus outbreak, other major 2020 sporting events are under the spotlight.

Here, we look at at the potential impact elsewhere from the virus, which has killed more than 2,600 people in China and spread to Europe and the Middle East.

Six Nations

Remaining fixtures: Men's Six Nations - 7 March: Ireland v Italy (postponed), England v Wales; 8 March: Scotland v France; 14 March: Wales v Scotland, Italy v England, France v Ireland.

Women's Six Nations - 23 February: Italy v Scotland (postponed); 7 March: England v Wales, Scotland v France; 8 March: Ireland v Italy (postponed); 15 March: Wales v Scotland, France v Ireland, Italy v England.

Ireland's Six Nations men's and women's matches against Italy in Dublin on 7 and 8 March have been postponed.

They were set to take place on the penultimate weekend of action, with England's sides due to play their final games in Italy a week later. Twelve people have died in Italy and more than 300 tested positive for the virus, while 11 towns are in lockdown. UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston is in talks with a host of sports governing bodies about the ramifications of coronavirus.

Scotland women's match in Italy on Sunday was called off and is yet to be rearranged.

Plans to reschedule the Irish fixtures have yet to be finalised and organisers will be hoping to avoid the disruption caused by foot-and-mouth disease in 2001. That tournament took eight months to complete, with three of Ireland's Tests held over until the autumn, and the final match - the Irish victory over champions England - taking place on 20 October.

Map showing areas of northern Italy affected by coronavirus

Euro 2020

Venues across Europe: 12 June-12 July

The football tournament, which has its semi-finals and finals at Wembley Stadium in London, is being staged at 12 venues across Europe, with Italy hosting the opening match against Turkey in Rome on 12 June.

Italian Michele Uva, a member of the Uefa executive committee, told state broadcaster Rai: "We are at the waiting stage. We are monitoring country by country, and football must follow the orders of the individual countries.

"The sporting path will only be closed if the situation gets worse."

Euro 2020 games in Rome

  • 12 June: Italy v Turkey (Group A)
  • 17 June: Italy v Switzerland (Group A)
  • 21 June: Italy v Wales (Group A)
  • 4 July: Quarter-final, potentially involving England

Uefa says it is in touch with the relevant international and local authorities.

"For the moment, there is no need to change anything in the planned timetable. The issue will be kept under constant scrutiny," said a spokesperson.

Five Serie A league matches in Italy are being played behind closed doors this weekend, including Juventus v Inter Milan on Sunday, although Juve fans were free to travel to French club Lyon for Wednesday night's Champions League fixture.

Inter's Europa League last-32 home match against Ludogorets on Thursday will also be played behind closed doors because of fears about possible spread of the virus.

Fans at the Napoli v Barcelona Champions League game wearing face masks
Some fans wore face masks as Italian side Napoli drew with Barcelona in the Champions League in Naples on Tuesday

Olympics and Paralympics

Olympics, Tokyo, Japan: 24 July-9 August. Paralympics: 25 August-6 September

Tokyo 2020 organisers have said the torch relay before the Games, which was due to travel across Japan starting on 26 March, will be scaled back but they are not discussing calling off events.

"Preparations for the Games are continuing as planned," a Tokyo 2020 spokesperson said.

However, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound has said organisers would "reluctantly" have to cancel the Games if the coronavirus developed into a serious pandemic.

And Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe believes athletes should not put Olympic dreams before their health in deciding whether to compete.

"I would most definitely be concerned," said the five-time Olympic champion.

Dr Brian McCloskey, public health director for London 2012, told the BBC this month cancellation need not be on the cards at this stage.

"It is important to remember there was a huge clamour for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to be cancelled because of the Zika virus outbreak, but those Games went ahead without any problem," McCloskey said.

Formula 1

Opening races: 15 March - Australia; 22 March - Bahrain; 5 April - Vietnam; 19 April - China (postponed)

The Chinese Grand Prix, which had been scheduled for 19 April, has already been postponed, while there are questions surrounding other early-season races.

A spokesman for F1 said the sport would continue to monitor the global situation but that there were no plans "at the moment" to postpone further races, which include the Vietnam GP on 5 April.

Vietnam's inaugural race is being held in Hanoi, 100 miles from the border with China.

Infographic showing the symptoms of the coronavirus

Cheltenham Festival & Grand National

Cheltenham Festival: 10-13 March, Gloucestershire.

Grand National meeting: 2-4 April, Aintree, Merseyside.

Horse racing has been down this road before, most recently with last year's equine flu crisis which led to a six-day shutdown of racing - although the biggest meetings survived.

An industry steering group, which includes representatives of the British Horseracing Authority and Racecourse Association, has been set up as a precaution to monitor any potential implications.

Organisers insist it is "full steam ahead" for the Cheltenham Festival, which is due to start on 10 March.

On Thursday, the odds of racing not going ahead on the first day were rated at only 2-1 on betting exchange Betfair, although some of that could be down to punters looking to guarantee a profit should racing be cancelled.

Unlike in Japan and Hong Kong where race fixtures have been held behind closed doors, it is understood Cheltenham would not take place without spectators if any restrictions were placed on large crowds gathering in one place - 250,000 racegoers are expected over the four days.

Racing's rulers privately point to the fact that 17 Premier League matches are expected to take place before the Festival starts and there appears to be no question mark over those games.

Racing Post
Flashback to 2001 - when a racing shutdown saw the Cheltenham Festival cancelled. Hopes remain high this year's meeting will go ahead as scheduled.

During the foot-and-mouth crisis, after much will they/won't they debate over Cheltenham, the meeting was finally scuppered when a group of sheep grazing on the course meant guidelines had been breached.

The Grand National went ahead in April, with vehicles sprayed with disinfectant and horses and racegoers required to walk over special mats at entrances.

Any other business?

Athletics: A date is being worked on to host the World Athletics Indoor Championships in 2021 after this year's event, scheduled for Nanjing in China from 13 to 15 March, was postponed.

Cricket: Precautionary measures are being taken by the ECB for England's tour of Sri Lanka in March but the two-Test series is not currently under threat. "To our knowledge, there is only one reported case of the virus in Sri Lanka, less than the UK, and it is not considered a high-risk country for further spread of the virus," said a spokesperson.

Cycling: Organisers have said the Milan-San Remo race, due to start in Italy on 21 March, is under threat of cancellation and there are fears the Giro d'Italia in May could be in danger.

Football: England's friendly against Italy is scheduled to go ahead at Wembley on 27 March, although it is understood the FA has been in talks over the fixture.

China's 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Maldives at home and Guam away next month have been moved to Buriram, Thailand, and will be played behind closed doors.

Golf: Italy's Lorenzo Gagli and Edoardo Molinari have been reinstated in the Oman Open field after Gagli - who had shown flu-like symptoms - tested negative for coronavirus.

The Italian Open does not take place until October, and before that is the biennial Ryder Cup in Wisconsin, United States, which has only been disrupted once in recent times - after the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2001.

The competition between Europe and the USA's top players was postponed for a year and eventually took place at The Belfry in September 2002.

Ice skating: Next month's Short-Track Speed Skating World Championships in South Korea have been postponed indefinitely. The sport's governing body said the "uncertain worldwide development" of the virus and logistical issues had made it tough to reschedule.

Rugby union: The Singapore and Hong Kong legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series have been postponed from April to October.

Table tennis: The World Championships in the southern Chinese city of Busan have been postponed until June.

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