January 29, 2020 / 10:53 AM / 25 days ago

Sport-Virus concern hits growing list of sporting events

Jan 29 (Reuters) - The list of international sporting events affected by a new virus outbreak in China grew on Wednesday with skiing World Cup races in Yanqing cancelled and Olympic women's football in Australia in doubt over concerns about athletes' safety.

Badminton, tennis and basketball were among other sports whose governing bodies were rearranging events, weighing possible changes or monitoring the implications of the outbreak.

Skiing's governing body FIS said in a statement here it took the "difficult decision" along with local organisers to cancel the Feb. 15-16 Alpine Ski World Cup -- the first official test event for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

The outbreak has killed over 130 people with almost 6,000 others affected by the flu-like virus that emerged late last year in Wuhan in the central Hubei province.

"Although the risk level in Yanqing is low, the health and welfare of athletes and all participants must take priority," FIS president Gian Franco Kasper said.

FIS said it will announce the rescheduling of the cancelled races -- a downhill and a super-G -- at a later date.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Asian Football Confederation said home matches of the four Chinese clubs on the first three match days of the AFC Champions League will be rescheduled and played away by swapping the order with their opponents.

The Chinese Football Association said four players -- Wang Shuang, Yao Wei, Lyu Yueyun and Li Mengwen -- would miss next week's Olympic women's qualifying tournament in Sydney after being affected by China's coronavirus control.

China last week withdrew as hosts of the four-nation event, which also features Australia, Taiwan and Thailand, before the AFC moved the matches to Sydney.

However, the event suffered another blow when Australia's soccer federation (FFA) said in a statement here it would postpone ticket sales while awaiting advice from the authorities.

The Chinese team, scheduled to play their first match on Feb. 3, were told to remain in their hotel rooms until Feb. 5 after arriving in Brisbane on Wednesday.

The International Tennis Federation has moved the Fed Cup Asia/Oceania Group I event out of Dongguan to Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana) in Kazakhstan.

The Feb 4-8 event features China, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, South Korea and Uzbekistan with two of the nations making it to the Fed Cup playoffs in April.

Badminton's governing body BWF said here that it would monitor implications related to the outbreak and that no decision had been made on the Feb. 25-March 1 China Masters in Lingshui.

The International Olympic Committee last week announced Jordan as hosts of the 2020 Olympics boxing qualifiers for Asia and Oceania after an event in China's Wuhan was cancelled. The qualification event will take place in Amman from March 3-11.

A Feb. 6-9 women's Olympic basketball qualifying tournament was moved from Foshan to Belgrade while a Feb. 21-23 X-Games event in Chongli was postponed.

The virus has spread to over a dozen countries while China's government has locked down most of Hubei province. Airlines from around the world are restricting flights into China. (Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, Editing by William Maclean)

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