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Tracking How Coronavirus Is Affecting Sports

As the coronavirus spreads globally, the sports world is taking notice.

A number of events have been canceled or postponed, while several others have taken place in empty stadiums, to avoid the risk of the infection spreading among a large crowd. Teams, leagues and governing bodies are planning for the possibility that the virus will continue spreading in the coming months. 

There are now more than 100,000 cases of the coronavirus worldwide in at least 83 different counties, including more than 1,000 confirmed cases in the United States. The death toll stemming from the virus has surpassed 4,000. 

The virus, also known as COVID-19, originated in Wuhan, China, late last year and quickly spread across the world. The illness affects the respiratory tract and can be transmitted through coughing, sneezing and contact with those infected. Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. 

The extent to which the virus will disrupt major sporting events, including the Olympics—scheduled to begin in Tokyo in July—remains unclear. But here's a look at how teams, leagues and governing bodies have responded so far to the public health crisis. 

The Olympics

More than 10,000 athletes and thousands more fans and media members from around the globe are expected to descend upon Tokyo for the Summer Games in July. International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach continues to say that the Olympics will go on as planned, and that there have not been talks about a cancellation. Japan's Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto floated the idea that under the IOC contract, Tokyo could host the Olympics any time in 2020 if a postponement until later in the year is necessary.

International Olympic Committee spokesperson Mark Adams attempted to quell fears of cancellation during a press conference.

"We made a decision and the decision is the Games go ahead," Adams said.

Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, also shot down a rumor from an executive board member who said the 2020 Games should be delayed a year to two because of the coronavirus.

The Olympic torch-lighting relay will begin March 12 in Greece.


Both UFC and Bellator are "moving ahead with planned events for now," according to ESPN's Marc Raimondi

The UFC has an event in Brazil on Saturday, followed by trips to London, Portland and Brooklyn before the end of april. 

"As with any UFC event, our top priority is the health and safety of our fans, athletes, and staff," UFC vice president of communications Lenee Breckenridge said in a statement. "We are monitoring the situation closely in conjunction with our venue partners and medical team, and we are following the recommended guidelines from the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) and the CDC."


Italy has been one of the countries most impacted by the disease, with more than 3,800 cases and 100 deaths. The Italian government announced that sporting events will be held without spectators until at least April 3. 

Among the games affected are Juventus's Champions League game against Lyon on March 17 in Turin. Inter Milan, Roma, Getafe and Sevilla are all also scheduled to play.

The Asian Champions League matches have been postponed until April.

Danish soccer player Thomas Kahlenberg was diagnosed with coronavirus after a recent trip to Denmark. He was in attendance at Brondby's game against Lyngby, and as a result, Brondby has quarantined more than 13 people, including players and coaches.

Ajax assistant coach Christian Poulsen and two other members of the Dutch club's staff were asked to remain at home after they attended a birthday party with Kahlenberg.

The Premier League banned pregame handshakes between players to potentially stop spreading the virus.

EUFA officials are still monitoring the virus before making any decision on the Euro 2020 tournament set for June.

In the MLS, the Seattle Sounders FC has postponed its March 21 home match against FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field. This comes after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a ban on gatherings of 250 or more people throughout the Seattle metro area.

The March 21 match between Sporting KC and the San Jose Earthquakes, scheduled to be played in San Jose, has also been postponed.


No upcoming XFL games have been canceled, but a concessions vendor, who worked the Seattle Dragons' Feb. 22 game at CenturyLink Field, has tested positive for coronavirus.

"As of now, Seattle's professional sports organizations -- Dragons, First & Goal/Seahawks, Mariners, and Sounders FC -- will continue with scheduled events," the King County press office said in a statement. "The teams are in touch with local health officials and their respective leagues on a regular basis, as this public health issue continues to evolve." 

The Dragons' home game against the Los Angeles Wildcats on Sunday, March 15, will take place as scheduled, but no fans will be in attendance.

Cincinnati has decided to call off its spring game on April 10 as a precautionary measure, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Spring practices will continue as scheduled for the Bearcats. 

Two Tulsa football players have been quarantined due to concerns of exposure to COVID-19, according to the Tulsa World. The players are reportedly roommates. One player's relative — a woman in her 20s — recently returned from Italy.

Michigan has cancelled its April 18 spring practice, reports The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach. The school has also cancelled its Big House 5k on April 19, per Nick Baumgardner of The Athletic. Michigan is also barring its coaches from hosting on-campus recruiting visits and prohibiting any off-campus recruiting activities between March 12 through April 21.


The International Ice Hockey Federation canceled six world championship tournaments in March and April. The Ice Hockey Women's World Championships, which were set to be held from March 31 to April 10 in Halifax and Turo, Nova Scotia, were also canceled. A decision on May's men's world championship in Switzerland will be made soon.

The NHL reportedly plans to close locker room access to the media and make players available for interviews in press conference areas.

The San Jose Sharks will be additionally affected by the coronavirus. They will either have to postpone a trio of home games for a later date, or play in front of an empty arena, per the San Jose Mercury News' Maggie Angst.

Wisconsin announced that its NCAA quarterfinal women's hockey game against Clarkson will be played with limited fans in attendance.


The World Athletics Indoor Track and Field Championships were one of the first events postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The championships were initially scheduled for March 13–15 in Nanjing, China, but have now been pushed back to 2021.

World Athletics, track and field's global governing body, also announced that the World Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland, on March 29 have been postponed until Oct. 17 after discussions with organizers and health officials.

The Tokyo Marathon canceled its mass-participation race for more than 30,000 runners but still held its elite race in front of few spectators along the course on March 1.

The Rome Marathons, originally scheduled for March 29, was canceled. The Paris Marathon was scheduled for April 5 and has now been postponed to Oct. 18. 

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the city is monitoring the spread of the disease but as of right now, the Boston Marathon will proceed as scheduled on April 20.

Kenyan athletes have been banned from traveling to any international sporting events for the month by the country's sports ministry. If extended, top athletes could be forced to withdraw from international marathons or the Diamond League track circuit.

Jamaica's health minister and the country's government has advised Jamaican schools not to compete at next month's edition of the Penn Relays. Last year's Penn Relays is held over three days and tends to host more than 100,000 spectators from around the world to watch high school, collegiate and professional runners. This year's relays will be held from April 23 to 25.


The NBA has reportedly warned teams to prepare for the possibility of playing games in empty stadiums, as other leagues across the world have done. The league previously issued a memo recommending that players give fist bumps to fans instead of high-fives. It also noted that players should avoid borrowing pens and markers while signing autographs.

The NBA's board of governors plans to meet with the commissioner's office to discuss the possibility of moving some games to NBA cities that have not been affected by the coronavirus

The Basketball Africa League, a new league formed in partnership with FIBA and the NBA, is postponing the start of its inaugural season. The first game was scheduled for Friday, March 13, at the Dakar Arena in Dakar, Senegal.

At the college level, the NCAA created a panel of health experts to help make decisions regarding upcoming games and tournaments. The NCAA men's tournament will begin on March 17 and will have teams traveling to 12 different states. The women's tournament begins on March 20 and hits five states.

The NCAA issued a statement saying the COVID-19 advisory panel "is not recommending cancellation or public spacing of athletic and related events scheduled to occur in public spaces across the United States."

Johns Hopkins announced the first two rounds of the NCAA Division III tournament in Maryland would be played without any spectators in attendance. 

“We are not making any determination about other JHU events at this time; while we await further guidance from public health authorities, we will be assessing large events on a case-by-case basis. We regret any inconvenience to the families and fans of the players.”

The Big Ten Network will not send its studio team to the men's basketball conference tournament in Indianapolis due to coronavirus concerns.

Chicago State and UMKC decided to cancel games against Seattle University, thought Chicago State is participating in the WAC Conference tournament this week in Las Vegas. Ten of the 11 coronavirus deaths in the United States have taken place in Washington.

The Ivy League has decided to cancel the upcoming Ivy League Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments. The Princeton women and Yale men will be the automatic qualifiers to the NCAA Tournaments.

The Big 12 will not allow media in the locker room for their conference tournament, following the NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS in doing so. 

The ACC will continue their tournament, but will also not allow media in the locker room. 

On Tuesday, UCLA barred fans from all home athletic until at least April 10. USC announced a similar policy which they will re-evaluate on March 29.

NCAA president Mark Emmert announced on Wednesday afternoon that the men's and women's NCAA tournaments will be held without fans in arenas due to the coronavirus. The games will still go on as planned, but only "essential staff and limited family" will be permitted to attend.

The NIT will also be played without fans in attendance, the NCAA announced


Spring training is underway in Florida and Arizona. MLB officials reportedly shared a memo with players asking them to limit contact with fans.

Opening Day across the league is scheduled for March 26. As of now, MLB does not plan to cancel or postpone any games. 


The LPGA canceled March series events in China, Thailand and Singapore. Meanwhile, the European Tour canceled the Kenya Open over fears about the virus. 

The Masters is expected to proceed as scheduled from April 9 to 12, Augusta National Golf Club announced. The PGA Tour has no major changes anticipated for its United States contests.

The Hero Indian Open, The Magical Kenya Open, Maybank Championship (Malaysia) and and Volvo China Open have been postponed. 


The BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. has been cancelled, the tournament announced on Sunday. California has seen more than 50 cases and one death. The Riverside County Public Health Department declared a public health emergency for the Coachella Valley after a confirmed case of coronavirus locally.

There is too great a risk, at this time, to the public health of the Riverside County area in holding a large gathering of this size,” said Dr. David Agus, Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. “It is not in the public interest of fans, players and neighboring areas for this tournament to proceed. We all have to join together to protect the community from the coronavirus outbreak.”

“We are very disappointed that the tournament will not take place, but the health and safety of the local community, fans, players, volunteers, sponsors, employees, vendors, and everyone involved with the event is of paramount importance,” tournament director Tommy Haas added. “We are prepared to hold the tournament on another date and will explore options.”

The women's Kunming Open in Anning, China, for April 27 to May 3 was canceled. No decision has yet to be made on the WTA events in Zhengzhou, Jiangxi, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Beijing, Tianjin and Zhuhai, which will take place in the fall.

French Open organizers told the Agence France-Presse they are not considering postponement or cancellation of the tournament from May 24 to June 7.

Spain has ordered that all sporting events that draw large attendances should be played without spectators until further notice, which could impact future tournaments and events in Barcelona and Madrid. 

Marc Stein of the New York Times reports that the ATP is in talks to suspend all tour events for the next six weeks.

Motor Sports

NASCAR will hold the Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway without fans in attendance. It will work with public health officials to determine scheduling for future events.

This story will be updated