China bans international sports events, Asia Cup postponed

China has announced it will not stage any international sports competitions for the remainder of the year, aside from test events for Beijing and Zhangjiakou’s staging of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, impacting the plans of a number of leading sports organisations.

The announcement from the country’s General Administration of Sport detailed a plan of resuming sport events “based on science and order”, according to state news agency Xinhua. Tennis is set to be a major victim of this policy with at least six events on the women’s WTA Tour and four on the men’s ATP Tour affected.

Indeed, the WTA currently stages its showpiece end-of-season Finals in Shenzhen. The inaugural edition of the city’s WTA Finals took place in November having set a first for the hospitality experience at a Chinese sports event.

Shenzhen holds a 10-year hosting deal with the WTA for the rights to stage the Finals from 2019 until 2028 and this year’s event was due to be held from November 9-15. The ATP and WTA last month issued revised provisional calendars that set a pathway for the resumption of the tours for the first time since the suspension of professional tennis in March due to COVID-19.

The WTA yesterday (Thursday) added two International events to this calendar for the week of August 10 – the Prague Open in the Czech Republic and the Top Seed Open presented by Bluegrass Orthopaedics in Lexington, marking the first WTA tournament to be held in the US state of Kentucky.

The General Administration of Sport’s announcement will also have a significant impact on golf. Shanghai was to host two big events in the form of the men’s HSBC Champions on October 29 to November 1, a World Golf Championship event held a fortnight after the women’s LPGA Shanghai.

The announcement also seems to put paid to Formula 1 rescheduling its Chinese Grand Prix, which was due to be held from April 17-19 before being postponed. The Badminton World Federation (BWF) was also due to hold its World Tour Finals in Guangzhou in December.

Domestically, Chinese Super League (CSL) football games and the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) league are currently being held behind closed doors, but the General Administration of Sport’s plan has opened the door to gradually allowing fans to return.

The plan reads: “Under the premise of the implementation of epidemic prevention measures, spectators with negative nucleic acid test results within 48 hours and strict self-isolation shall be gradually allowed to watch the matches on site. They shall be seated at intervals, with the total number not exceeding 50% of the audience capacity.”

In other news, cricket’s 2020 Asia Cup has been postponed to next year due to COVID-19. The Asian Cricket Council (ACC) made the announcement yesterday after weeks of speculation regarding the national team event, which is played in the Twenty20 format and was due to have taken place in Sri Lanka in September.

The ACC said in a statement: “From the onset the Board was keen on organising the tournament as per the original schedule. However, travel restrictions, country-specific quarantine requirements, fundamental health risks and social distancing mandates have posed as substantial challenges to the holding of the Asia Cup.

“Above all, the risks related to health and safety of participating players, support staff, commercial partners, fans and the cricketing community were deemed to be significant.”

The ACC said it is hopeful that the Cup can be held in 2021, with June being lined up as a suitable window for the event in the global cricket calendar. Pakistan was originally due to have hosted this year’s tournament but had agreed an exchange deal with Sri Lanka.

Under the new arrangement, Sri Lanka will now host the rescheduled Asia Cup expected in June 2021 while Pakistan will stage a tournament in 2022. The most recent edition of the Asia Cup was held in the United Arab Emirates in 2018. India defeated Bangladesh in the final, with the tournament also featuring Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.

Image: Greg Turner