Sports organizations from Italy to Japan to the United States are taking drastic measures to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus among players and fans.
Already, several leagues are playing games without fans present and others are limiting the amount of contact between spectators and the participants. Baseball players have been instructed not to sign autographs, and the NBA has warned its teams to prepare for the possibility of playing games without fans.
As the worldwide death toll approached 4,000 on Monday, a number of professional and amateur sports organizations announced additional initiatives.
Here are the latest developments in the sports world:
Locker rooms off limits to media
Officials from four major professional sports leagues — MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS — have announced that team clubhouses and locker rooms will temporarily be closed to the media and non-essential personnel, effective Tuesday.
Instead, all interviews will take place in designated areas outside locker rooms. The media will also be asked to maintain a six-foot distance from players during those Q&A sessions.
But will the ban on media really do all that much to keep everyone safe?
Ivy League cancel men’s, women’s tournament
The Ivy League has canceled the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that were slated for March as a result of coronavirus precautions.
The league issued a statement that read: “The decision has been made in accordance with the guidance of public health and medical professionals to discourage and limit large gatherings on campuses in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.”
County’s ban to impact pro sports
The County of Santa Clara (California) Public Health Department has ordered the canceling of mass gatherings of more than 1,000 people. This edict could directly impact the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes and potentially sporting events at Stanford University in Palo Alto.
Sports on hold until April in Italy
The Italian Olympic Committee announced Monday that all sporting events will be suspended until April 3 at the earliest. This includes everything from the country’s top professional soccer league — Serie A — all the way down to local recreational sports.
Italy has more confirmed cases of coronavirus than anywhere else in Europe.
Champions League match closed
The French government has determined Wednesday’s match between Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund at Paris’s Parc des Princes stadium will take place with no fans in attendance.
France has banned all gatherings of more than 1,000 people to prevent the spread of the virus.
Olympic flame lighting limited
The traditional ceremony on Thursday in which the Olympic torch is passed to the organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Games will be closed to the public. Greece’s Olympic committee said only 100 accredited guests will be on hand in Ancient Olympia to take part in the ceremony.
Tokyo is also “reducing the size of its traveling delegation as much as possible.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has canceled its media summit that was supposed to start on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Japan delays pro baseball season
The start of the Nippon Professional Baseball season has been postponed due to the risk of coronavirus infections in Japan.
NPB commissioner Atsushi Saito made the announcement Monday saying, “We must protect the cultural legacy of pro baseball.” Opening day, scheduled for March 20, has been pushed back to the middle of April.
Tennis, golf events still on
After the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California was canceled Sunday night, speculation turned to the next event on the tennis calendar: The Miami Open. The tournament — like Indian Wells, one of the most prestigious on the WTA and ATP Tour after the four Grand Slams — released a statement Monday that the Miami Open was going to proceed as scheduled. However, the situation could change before the event starts on March 23.
This could be the turning point for sports and coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the first major LPGA tournament of the season is also still on track, despite being in the same general vicinity as Indian Wells.
The Ana Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, is scheduled for April 2-5, and the LPGA told the Palm Spring Desert Sun in a statement Monday, “There are no plans to cancel any upcoming LPGA Tour events.
“However, like other major sporting leagues and entities, we are planning for different scenarios and will take into consideration all relevant information, including the guidance and directives of local health officials in the regions in which we play.”
The LPGA has been hit hard by concerns over the coronavirus. Three tournaments in Asia (one in Thailand, one in Singapore and one in China) have already been canceled by the women’s tour this year.
Harvard cancels baseball trip
The Easton Invitational college baseball tournament in Fullerton, California, has canceled three of the 14 games on the weekend schedule after Harvard announced its team would not travel to the event.
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