Coronavirus causes sporting chaos with Ireland’s Six Nations clash with Italy in doubt and Tokyo Olympics and Cheltenham Festival at risk too in light of epidemic described as ‘the new war’
- Coronavirus outbreak is threatening the postponement of major sport events
- Ireland are due to play Italy in the Six Nations on March 7 at the Aviva Stadium
- Irish health minister Simon Harris made it clear that his government was opposed to Ireland taking on Italy – with the latter suffering badly from the virus
- The Tokyo Olympics needs two months’ notice if it is to go ahead for it’s July start
- Cheltenham Festival is approaching with the annual event starting on March 10
Rugby’s Six Nations championship was in chaos on Tuesday night amid the increasing inevitability that Ireland’s game against Italy in Dublin next weekend will be postponed.
The Irish government’s public health emergency team on Tuesday concluded that the fixture at the Aviva Stadium on March 7 should not take place because of the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in Italy. There were also growing fears that the Tokyo Olympics may have to be cancelled if the virus is not under control by the end of May, and the governing bodies for racing’s Cheltenham Festival next month are on high alert.
Irish health minister Simon Harris made it clear that his government was opposed to Ireland taking on Italy and said: ‘The very clear view was that this game should not go ahead and it would constitute a significant risk because a large number of people would be travelling from what is now an affected region.’
Ireland’s upcoming Six Nations clash with Italy on March 7 is in doubt due to the coronavirus
There will be hastily-convened meetings on Wednesday between Six Nations officials, the Irish RFU and Irish authorities before any official decision is made. However, with the government supporting a postponement, it appears certain the game will be shelved. Italy, the worst-affected part of Europe, confirmed more than 320 cases in recent days.
England are due to face Italy in Rome on March 14 in the final round of Six Nations games, but that could be in grave jeopardy.
The spread of coronavirus was described on Tuesday by a senior member of the International Olympic Committee as ‘the new war’. In the most alarming official comments to date over the threat to the 2020 Games, Dick Pound warned that organisers would need a minimum of two months to know if they can go ahead safely with the Games, which open on July 24.
Pound, the longest-standing IOC member, said: ‘You could go to two months out if you had to. A lot of things have to start happening. You’ve got to start ramping up your security, food, the Olympic Village, the hotels, the media will be in there building their studios. This is the new war and you have to face it. In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask, “Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo, or not?”.’
England’s last-day match against Italy in Rome now the subject of hasty contingency planning
Reallocating the Games is unlikely, according to Pound, who said: ‘To move the place is difficult because there are few places in the world that could think of gearing up facilities in that short time to put something on.
‘It’s a big, big, big decision and you just can’t take it until you have reliable facts. You don’t postpone something on the size and scale of the Olympics. There’s so many moving parts, so many countries, different competitive seasons and television seasons. You can’t just say, “We’ll do it in October”.’
Team GB will continue preparations in expectation that Tokyo goes ahead as planned.
Dick Pound, who serves on the IOC, said there is three months to decide the fate of Tokyo 2020
Racing’s Cheltenham Festival starts on March 10 and the BHA are working with the Racecourse Association and Horsemen to consider their response should coronavirus become more prevalent in Britain.
In a statement issued by the Jockey Club, owners of Cheltenham, a spokesman said: ‘Racing continues to liaise closely with the Government to stay on top of the situation.’
In football, England’s friendly with Italy at Wembley on March 27 is still on. The FA will hold talks with their Italian counterparts on Wednesday. Italy will host three matches in Wales’ group at the Euros in June but UEFA say it is too early for a decision.
Coronavirus is understood to have been discussed by the BHA ahead of Cheltenham too