World Athletics Championships

World Athletics has announced today (Wednesday) that its World Championships in Eugene, Oregon will now take place from July 15-24, 2022, a year later than originally scheduled.

The postponement has been confirmed after the International Olympic Committee announced last week that this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo would be pushed back until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the IOC announcement, World Athletics said it was working on new dates for its showpiece event and these have now been confirmed. The Championships had originally been scheduled for August 6-15, 2021.

The University of Oregon’s Hayward Field stadium is set to be transformed for the event and it is hoped the venue will set a new standard for sports stadia, creating world-class training and competition facilities for student-athletes.

The stadium (pictured), which currently seats 8,500 fans, will be expanded to hold between 12,000 and 13,000 permanent seats as part of a project that will cost more than $200m (£161m/€184m). The north end of the stadium will be used as the location for the majority of the temporary seating needed to bring the capacity up to the minimum 30,000 required for the World Championships.

The rescheduling of the event means that 2022 will be a bumper year for athletics, with the Commonwealth Games already scheduled to take place in the English city of Birmingham and the European Championships multi-sport event set to be held in Munich, Germany.

World Athletics held discussions with the organisers of the Commonwealth Games and European Championships – which are due to be held from July 27 to August 7 and from August 11-21, respectively – before deciding on the dates for its own event.

The new schedule is designed to prevent a direct conflict between the three events and ensure athletes can compete in all three if they wish.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said: “This will be a bonanza for athletics fans around the world. They will be treated to six weeks of absolutely first-class athletics. More than 70 of our member federations are part of the Commonwealth and more than 50 of our member federations are European so our guiding principle in rescheduling the World Championships was to ensure enough space was created around the centrepiece World Athletics Championship for athletes to choose other major events to compete in.

“We were also very mindful that we did not want to damage the other major championships in 2022, because they are also very important to our sport. We believe we have found a solution that will allow athletes who are eligible for the other two events to compete in them with the Commonwealth Games Federation planning to stage the athletics programme towards the end of their event. This will showcase our sport to its best advantage in the circumstances and we will continue collaborating with all competitions on the detailed programming.”

Royal Ascot, Classics

Ascot Racecourse has conceded that this year’s Royal Ascot meeting will need to be staged behind closed doors, if possible, while UK horse racing’s first four Classics of the season have been postponed due to COVID-19.

With British racing having been on a lockdown since March 18, a situation that claimed the weekend’s Grand National meeting at Aintree Racecourse, Ascot yesterday (Tuesday) said that for public health and safety reasons it has reached the “difficult but unavoidable conclusion” that Royal Ascot 2020, scheduled for June 16-20, will not be able to take place as an event open to the public.

The annual showpiece last year attracted more than 290,000 racing fans over its duration. Ascot Racecourse chief executive Guy Henderson said: “It may prove possible to run the Royal Ascot races behind closed doors, dependent on government and public health policy and the approval of the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) for us to re-start racing.

“This would be for the benefit of the industry, our valued partners and suppliers and our television audiences at home and internationally. Planning for this is now our complete focus and we will update on progress as and when we can.”

Henderson said customers who have already paid for entry and hospitality at Royal Ascot will be refunded in full. He added: “The pandemic will have a significant financial impact on our business in 2020, along with so many others. Nevertheless, Ascot racecourse will come through this crisis and we look forward to being able to welcome racegoers back when it is safe to do so.”

Meanwhile, Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR) has said the Guineas Festival at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile and the Derby Festival at Epsom Downs Racecourse will not be staged May 2-3 and June 5-6 respectively, due to the ongoing public health emergency.

Given the importance of the three-year-old Classic programme to the careers of that generation of horses, and the racing and bloodstock industries as a whole, JCR said it is now in talks with the BHA, participants and other key stakeholders, including the Horserace Betting Levy Board and commercial partners, to reschedule the first four Classics at later dates, once racing has resumed in Britain.

The Guineas Festival includes the 2000 Guineas and 1000 Guineas, run over a mile, while the Derby Festival incorporates the Derby and the Oaks, run over a mile and a half.

Ruth Quinn, director of international racing and racing development at the BHA, said: “As a sport we have a responsibility to safeguard the staging of our Classics, and to position them within a sensible, balanced schedule of complementary events wherever possible. We will continue to work together to deliver the optimal outcome within these unprecedented set of circumstances.

“We are developing plans to help ensure that a suitable race programme, for the long-term health of the sport, can be delivered in these challenging times. Naturally one of the key priorities is the staging of the generation-defining races.”

Formula 1

Montreal’s Canadian Grand Prix has become the ninth Formula 1 race affected by COVID-19, with this year’s running on June 12-14 being postponed.

The event at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve had been lined up as the opening race of the 2020 season after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku was postponed on March 23. Quebec, of which Montreal is the largest city, has seen almost half of Canada’s COVID-19 cases. Race organisers said they have been in constant communication over the past month with Formula 1 and representatives from the city of Montréal, Tourism Montreal and both provincial and federal governments, leading up to yesterday’s decision.

Francois Dumontier, president and CEO of Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix, said: “I am proud to see how such wonderful initiatives and technical advancements stemming from Formula 1 are being applied in a time of crisis. At the moment it is crucial that all of our energies be put together to overcome COVID-19. We will welcome you with open arms at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Tickets already purchased for the 2020 Canadian GP will continue to be valid, with all options being outlined once new race dates are confirmed. F1 stakeholders are currently working on a revised 2020 calendar that hopes to see the season start in the European summer with a 15 to 18-race schedule that could run into the New Year.

The postponement of the Canadian GP means the French Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 26-28 is now the next scheduled race.