China shuts down international sports events for remainder of 2020
China will not host any international sports events for the remainder of the year, except for trials for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the country has announced.
That order, which came from the Chinese government's General Administration of Sport, will affect multiple events already planned for the next few months, across sports including men’s and women’s tennis, cycling, golf, motor racing, and badminton.
The decision by the GAS has been taken to try and stop athletes or staff from overseas bringing the coronavirus into the country (where it originated), which has at this point largely stamped out local transmission.
Among the most high-profile events set to be affected are motor racing’s potential Formula 1 Shanghai Grand Prix later this year, and women’s tennis’ WTA Finals in Shenzhen.
For Formula 1, the news will come as a blow, given that last month the sport reportedly asked if the Shanghai International Circuit could stage two races during the remainder of the disrupted 2020 season.
The Chinese Grand Prix was originally set to take place on 19 April, but was postponed due to the spread of the virus, which originated in the city of Wuhan late last year.
Xu Bin, director of the Shanghai Administration of Sports, said in June: “Formula One Management asked us if it is possible for Shanghai to hold two races. We have not made the final decision, depending on the potential changes of the epidemic situation.”
Formula 1 is still piecing together a revised 2020 calendar (with two more races announced today), and has said it hopes to finish up with a schedule of between 15 and 18 races, but this announcement is likely to throw its plans into further confusion.
Meanwhile, men’s tennis’ ATP was set to stage four events in total in China between now and the end of the year, while the WTA would have staged six, including its prestigious Shenzhen Finals.
Both the WTA and ATP have recently issued revised calendars, with the pandemic having wiped out around five months of play.
Two high profile golf events - the men’s HSBC Champions event, and the women’s LPGA Shanghai - were also scheduled, as was the badminton World Tour Finals in Guangzhou in December.
The GAS, in its statement announcing the decision, said: “In principle, no other international sports events (apart from Beijing 2022 trials) will be held this year.”
It said that “science and order” was behind the plan.
The body also indicated that foreign players in China’s various domestic sports leagues who are currently out of the country, will not need to return for the time being, saying they “are not required to return immediately.”
China is in the process of cautiously resuming its domestic sports calendar, with the Chinese Basketball Association leading the way and restarting its league last month.
The Chinese Super League, the country’s top-tier soccer league, will follow later in July, after being originally scheduled to start in February.
All major sports leagues will initially hold matches behind closed doors.