A number of Olympic qualifying events have been cancelled or rescheduled as a result of the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China, the IOC has said. The virus has killed at least 17 according to Chinese public health officials and sickened more than 600 as of Thursday.
Officials have quarantined the entire city of Wuhan, with 11 million residents, aand cases of the disease have been identified in all Chinese provinces, with at least one case detected in Washington state in the U.S. The new virus is part of a family of viruses that also includes SARS and MERS viruses. The virus is believed to have originated from a wholesale seafood market in Huanan, China, with the latest theories being that it originated in the meat of venomous snakes, though there are others who disagree with that idea.
Besides Wuhan, nearby central Chinese cities of Huanggang and Ezhou have been locked down.
Cases have also been reported in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, and Macau.
State-run Beijing News says that a number of events have been cancelled, including several celebrations of the Chinese New Year that comes this weekend. Events in Shenzhen have also been cancelled.
Shenzhen and Beijing played host to last week’s FINA Champions Series, where a number of the world’s best swimmers were in China to compete for a portion of $2 million in prize money. There have been no reports yet of any swimmers being infected with the virus, though if the Champions Series had been scheduled any later, officials may have been forced to cancel the event.
Other Olympic qualifying events have been moved or cancelled, however:
- An Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Olympic qualifying match in women’s soccer has been moved from Wuhan to Nanjing. That will include teams from Australia, China, Thailand, and Taiwan (Chinese Taipei).
- The Tokyo 2020 Olympic boxing tournament for Asia and Oceania has been cancelled. That tournament was scheduled for February 3rd-14th in Wuhan. This was the first Olympic qualifying event for boxing, and will be rescheduled. With the international boxing federation AIBA currently suspended by the IOC for finance and government issues, the IOC Boxing Task Force is managing Olympic qualifying – this after the sport was narrowly spared from an Olympic cut altogether. India has offered to host the tournament.
Update: the Asian/Oceanian Tokyo 2020 boxing qualifying event will be held in Amman, Jordan from March 3rd-11th.
Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak, is not a regular host of major swim meets, and China’s next Olympic qualifying-caliber event is the National Swimming Championships from March 28th-April 5th in Qingdao. Qingdao confirmed its first case of coronavirus-related pneumonia late on Tuesday evening.