Is Coronavirus Threatening Sport?

Image Credit- San Francisco Chronicle

Sporting events across the globe are being affected due to increasing concerns of how quickly coronavirus is being spread.

It is the illness the whole world is talking about, with it originally outbreaking in Wuhan, China. However the extremely contagious disease is now affecting hundreds of people in Europe, most notably, Italy, with the number of infected people now totalling over 400.

This has affected multiple sporting fixtures, with the worry not only the players themselves catching the disease, but also the travelling fans, coming from areas of Europe where infection is spreading rapidly. 

Within the last few days, the Six Nation rugby match between Ireland and Italy has been postponed, which was due to take place in the Irish capital Dublin. The head of the Irish Rugby Football Union, Philip Browne stated the match was not to proceed, ‘due to interests of the public health’. This therefore means England are awaiting confirmation of whether their Rugby team will travel to Italy for their game on the 14th March, meaning the tournament may not be completed for the first time in almost 50 years. 

However with approximately 20,000 English supporters expected to make this trip to Rome, it comes as no surprise the health federation are increasingly concerned, stating ‘they’ll monitor the situation very closely.’ Airline companies such as easyJet and British Airways have said they’ll start cancelling flights to Italy due to such a fall in demand, however they’ll re- assess the situation in the summer holidays. This not only triggers huge economical fear, but also places doubt on how footballing competition Euro 2020 will continue if the infection continues to spread.

The cycling governing body, the UCI have also cancelled the final stages of the UAE tour due to two ‘suspected’ cases of the virus. Britain’s Adam Yates, who led after stage five was declared the winner, however after the race was suspended, they then discovered these two suspected cases were in fact confirmed to have the virus. 

The worry also continues in the golfing world, where two Italian players have withdrawn from this week’s Oman Open on the European tour. The two players, Lorenzo Gagli and Edoardo Molinari are reportedly being kept in isolation, to ensure they have not been infected by the disease. This is concerning when considering the fact that players share meals with others and utilise the same gym and transport. 

Perhaps the biggest worry is the Olympics, which is due to take place in Tokyo, 2020. The scale of the outbreak in Japan saw International Olympic committee member Dick Pound describe the disease as ‘the new war’, thus meaning the games could be cancelled if the virus is still around by May. Although it is understood the athletes have been told to continue to train, many qualification fixtures have been cancelled, due to them taking place in China, and the boxing even scheduled to take place in Wuhan itself. 

Perhaps the difficulty is no- one has the power to predict how severe the virus will continue to be, yet the sporting world will definitely be affected as a result, as people prepare for a nervy few months.