How the coronavirus has hit global sport

Basketball superstar LeBron James said he won’t play if his Los Angeles Lakers have to hold games behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“If I show up to the arena and there ain’t no fans in the crowd, then I ain’t playing. This ain’t Europe,” he said.

AFP Sport looks at the effects on sport of the coronavirus, which at 1700GMT Saturday had killed 3,556 people while infecting more than 105,000 in 95 countries worldwide.


— LeBron James said he won’t play if his Los Angeles Lakers have to hold games behind closed doors due to the outbreak.

The NBA has reportedly told teams to look into strategies on how to play without fans in the arena amid concerns over the spreading virus.

“Nah. It’s impossible,” James said after the Lakers’ 113-102 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

“If I show up to the arena and there ain’t no fans in the crowd, then I ain’t playing. This ain’t Europe.”


— The spring classic Milan-San Remo, scheduled for March 21, was postponed, having only previously been cancelled three times since the inaugural edition in 1907.

— The Strade Bianchi, the first big race of the Italian cycling season set for Saturday, was also cancelled along with the Tirreno-Adriatico while teams such as Mitchelton, Ineos and Astana have pulled out of Sunday’s Paris-Nice.

— The UAE Tour’s last two stages were abandoned with riders and teams subsequently quarantined in their Abu Dhabi hotels. The Gulf state announced eight coronavirus cases linked to the event — four Italians, two Russians, one German and a Colombian.


— International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said Wednesday that the nightmare scenario of either cancelling or postponing this year’s Tokyo Olympics was not discussed at a key meeting.

“Neither the word cancellation nor postponement was mentioned today during the Executive Board meeting,” Bach told reporters in Lausanne.

The Olympics take place from July 24-August 9.


— In Italy, the hardest-hit European country with 233 deaths from COVID-19, it was announced that all matches will be played behind closed doors until April 3. This week’s Italian Cup semi-finals were postponed to a date to be arranged while a number of Serie A league games were cancelled. Five of those called off last week will now be played behind closed doors on Sunday, including Juventus v Inter Milan.

— Elsewhere, the start of Japan’s J-League was postponed till mid-March while China suspended all domestic football and shelved indefinitely the top-flight Super League season which was due to kick off on February 22.

— The Swiss league has already suspended all Super League matches until March 23.

— The Valencia v Atalanta Champions League clash on March 10 will be played behind closed doors as will the Europa League tie featuring Inter Milan against Getafe on March 12.

— FIFA and Asia’s football governing bodies are considering postponing upcoming 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers on March 26 and 31.

— Former Danish international Thomas Kahlenberg tested positive for the virus, with 13 members of his former club Brondby’s staff put into quarantine.


— The Six Nations match between Italy and England in Rome on March 14 as well as Saturday’s Ireland v Italy duel in Dublin were cancelled.

— Scotland’s women’s Six Nations match against France was postponed after a Scottish player tested positive for the coronavirus.

— Sevens World Series tournaments in Hong Kong on April 3-5 and Singapore the following weekend have been postponed.


— Nepal’s Everest Premier League, scheduled to begin on March 14, has also been called off. The fourth edition of the Twenty20 league had signed West Indies batting star Chris Gayle.


— The Chinese Formula One Grand Prix, which was set for April 19 in Shanghai, was axed as was the March 21 Formula E race slated for Sanya on the Chinese island of Hainan.

— In motorcycling, the season-opening Qatar MotoGP, set for Sunday, and the Thailand MotoGP have also been scratched. The Thai race has, however, been rearranged for October 4.

— Formula E also postponed its Rome E-Prix, which was due to be held on April 4.


— European Tour chiefs postponed the Maybank Championship in Malaysia and the China Open in Shenzhen — both set for April.

— The US LPGA Tour cancelled all three of its lucrative early-season events in Asia with a combined prize purse of more than $5 million.


— This weekend’s Davis Cup qualifiers between Italy and South Korea in Cagliari and Japan against Ecuador in Miki were played behind closed doors.


— The World Indoor Championships, scheduled for Nanjing from March 13-15, was postponed for a year.

— World half-marathon championships, due to be held on March 29 in the Polish city of Gdynia, were shelved until October 17.

— The Paris Marathon, scheduled for April 5 with 60,000 registered runners, was postponed until October 18.

— The Barcelona Marathon, which was scheduled for March 15 with 17,000 runners, was postponed until October.


— The World Cup finals, scheduled for Cortina d’Ampezzo between March 16-22, were cancelled.


— The Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships, set for Halifax and Truro in Nova Scotia for March 31 to April 10, were cancelled on Saturday.

Image: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP / Harry How No fans, no play: LeBron James

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