Sporting Events in Europe, Asia Hit by Coronavirus

(ATR) Iran, Italy and South Korea restrict sports in effort to contain the virus; Greece monitors threat to Torch Relay

(ATR) An increase in coronavirus cases in South Korea, Italy and Iran is forcing changes to the sporting calendar in all three countries.

The top-flight Italian soccer league, Serie A, on Monday asked the government to allow games to be played behind closed doors in the areas affected directly by the outbreak, according to ANSA.

Four games were postponed over the weekend in Lombardy, Veneto and Piedmont as part of an edict by the Minister of Sport to cancel all sporting events in the northern part of the country.

The Serie A president says playing to empty stadiums rather than more postponements would allow the schedule of games to be completed in time for the start of Euro 2020 in June.

The number of cases in Italy spiked over the weekend, with the bulk of cases in Lombardy. Ten towns in Lombardy and Veneto are locked down. Schools and universities have been closed in those two regions as well as Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont, Ligurua and Alto Adige.

Inter Milan, one of two Milan’s two Serie A clubs, is due to host a Europa League match on Thursday against Bulgarian side Ludogorets. A decision has yet to be made on the status of the game.

South Korean authorities on Monday postponed the start of the K League soccer season scheduled for the coming weekend, according to Yonhap news agency.

The decision follows the government on Sunday raising its coronavirus threat alert to its highest level.

The league has requested that its four teams in the AFC Champions League, the continent's elite club competition, hold matches behind closed doors.

Yonhap also reported on Monday that Busan, about 450km (280 miles) southeast of Seoul, was "actively considering" postponing next month's table tennis world championships owing to the crisis.

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) on Friday postponed the draw in Busan for the Hana Bank 2020 World Team Table Tennis Championships scheduled for the next day.

The tournament is scheduled to run from March 22-29.

Soccer matches in Iran are the only exception to a 10-day ban on sports events throughout the country, effective from Monday.

Tehran Times reports that the Iran Football League Organization released a statement announcing that all the football and futsal matches will be held but without spectators.

Iran, like Italy, is dealing with a sudden spike in coronavirus cases.

Al Arabiya English is reporting that nine countries across the Middle East have closed their air and land borders with Iran.

Greece Monitors Corona Threat to Torch Relay

Organizers of next month’s Olympic torch relay in Greece say they are consulting with a health risk management firm over concerns resulting from corona virus.

"In case anything happens," Hellenic Olympic Committee President Spyros Capralos explained in a Monday press conference in Athens.

Hundreds of runners will participate in the week long relay that will follow the March 12 lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia.

On March 19, the flame will be transferred to Tokyo 2020 where 10,000 runners will take part in the four month relay across Japan.

"On the issue we are all facing these days, the coronavirus, we are taking a number of measures. We will do whatever is humanly possible to have no problems whatsoever during the relay," HOC torch relay director Sakis Vassiliadis told reporters without disclosing details.

So far Greece has not documented any cases of the illness. Capralos says the HOC is in contact with the Greek Ministry of Health.

Coronavirus News on Around the Rings

Written by Gerard Farek and Ed Hula

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