Coronavirus Update: 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Delayed

Also: BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, canoe Olympic qualifiers, women's ice hockey worlds among events affected.

(ATR) The upcoming Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup are among the latest sporting events to be postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus.

World football’s governing body FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced on Monday that World Cup qualifiers scheduled for the international windows from March 23-31 and June 1-9 are postponed to later dates.

Some of the matches could go ahead, "provided that the safety of all individuals involved meets the required standards and that the member associations due to play each other mutually agree" and both FIFA and the AFC sign off.

FIFA and the AFC have also agreed to postpone the AFC Futsal Championship Turkmenistan 2020, which serves as the qualifiers for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2020, until August 5-16.

The upcoming qualifiers for the Olympic Football Tournaments are expected to be played as scheduled, with the exception of the women’s Olympic qualifiers playoff between South Korea and China, which will now take place during the June international window.

On Sunday, all matches for the AFC Champions League Match Day 3 in the West Zone were postponed. The AFC has asked for help from member associations to figure out a way to get the remaining matches played before the round of 16.

Earlier this month, the AFC met with East Zone participants and agreed to delay the dates for the knockout rounds until August to allow for the disrupted group stages fixtures to be completed.

The quarterfinals will be moved to September 14-16 and 28-30 and the semifinals to October 20-21 and 27-28. The AFC Champions League Final dates (November 22 - East and November 28 - West) remain unchanged.

2020 BNP Paribas Open Postponed

The unofficial fifth major of the tennis circuit in Indian Wells, California won't take place as scheduled.

The decision was made on Sunday, just a day before qualifying matches for the BNP Paribas Open were set to begin. The tournament was set to begin on March 12.

A public health emergency has been declared for the area where the tournament is held.

"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 said in a statement.

"We are prepared to hold the tournament on another date and will explore options."

Given the typically packed calendar for the sport, there seems little to no chance the BNP Paribas Open could be rescheduled this year.

There could be additional postponements or cancellations as well, though WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon said in a statement "it is too soon to speculate about what will happen to other tournaments that follow'.

Canoe, Paracanoe Olympic Qualifying

The 2020 Asian canoe slalom, paracanoe and canoe sprint championships in Thailand are being postponed by a few weeks.

The International Canoe Federation, the Rowing and Canoeing Association of Thailand and the Asian Canoe Confederation made the decision to move the Tokyo Olympic qualifying events, scheduled for the end of this month, to April 17-30. The ICF says exact dates for each competition will be confirmed soon.

The ICF board is currently sitting in Barcelona and has agreed on contingency plans for the coming months, including for Olympic qualifying events, which will be released once ratified by the International Olympic Committee.

The African canoe slalom qualifier scheduled for Huningue, France, next weekend is still scheduled to go ahead.

Women's Ice Hockey World Championship

The International Ice Hockey Federation, citing the spread of the coronavirus, has cancelled the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Canada.

The tournament was scheduled to run from March 31 to April 10 in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia.

The cities will instead host the 2021 edition of the tournament, subject to formal approval by the IIHF Congress.

The IIHF Council also decided to cancel the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A, scheduled to take place on April 12-18 in Angers, France.

"It is with great regret that we must take this action," said IIHF President René Fasel.

"Ultimately the IIHF Council feels that there has not been enough of an improvement to the coronavirus situation to allow us to safely host a 10-team international tournament within this timeframe. We look forward to coming to Canada in 2021."

The IIHF says the decision does not influence the planning of the men’s 2020 world championship, which remains on schedule for May 8-24 in Switzerland.

2020 Arctic Winter Games Cancelled

The 2020 Arctic Winter Games will not take place.

The 50th edition of the event featuring athletes from places above the Arctic Circle was to be hosted by the city of Whitehorse, Yukon in Canada.

The decision to cancel the event, which was to run March 15-21, was made despite a lack of any cases of the coronavirus in Yukon.

In a joint statement, organizers and government officials said that while there are no cases of COVID-19 in Yukon and the risks low, other regions are experiencing unexpected community spread of the virus and necessary steps must be taken to ensure the health and safety of Yukoners and visitors to the territory.

Homepage photo: FIFA

Written by Gerard Farek

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