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World Athletics Indoor Championships in China postponed amid coronavirus crisis

World Athletics has announced the postponement of the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing as the coronavirus spreads throughout China, infecting thousands and killing more than 130 worldwide.

Christian Coleman sets a championship record in the men’s 60m at the 2018 World Indoor Athletics Championships in Birmingham. (bbc.co.uk)

The international meet was initially scheduled for March 13 to March 15 but has been moved to March 2021.

World Athletics, the sports’ international governing body, in a statement today said it will postpone the event in the interest of the athletes. “We know that China is doing all it can to contain the new Coronavirus and we support them in all their efforts but it is necessary to provide our athletes, Member Federations and partners with a clear way forward in what is a complex and fast-moving set of circumstances.”

” We have considered the possibility of relocating the event to another country…However, given concerns still exist regarding the spread of the virus outside China, we have decided not to go with this option.”

– World Athletics

The body said its medical team, which was in contact with the World Health Organisation, advised it that the virus’s spread in China and outside the nation, where it has now reached more than a dozen countries since first being identified “is still at a concerning level and no one should be going ahead with any major gathering that can be postponed.”

“We have considered the possibility of relocating the event to another country and would like to thank the cities that have volunteered to host the championships. However, given concerns still exist regarding the spread of the virus outside China, we have decided not to go with this option, as it may lead to further postponement at a later date.”

People in protective masks walk under decorations for Lunar New Year celebrations in Beijing on January 25. (Photo: Bloomberg)

While thanking the Chinese city, World Athletics said it opted not to cancel the Championships “as many of our athletes would like this event to take place so we will now work with our athletes, our partners and the Nanjing organising committee to secure a date in 2021 to stage this event.”

Approximately 6,000 people have contracted the disease in China, with the death toll standing at 132, with most cases in the Hubei province, the outbreak’s epicentre, according to Bloomberg. Some 60,000 more people are reportedly being observed for the virus which has forced many companies, including Toyota, to halt operations and several airlines to cease bookings to the country.

Two passengers wearing masks arrive at Beijing International Airport on January 20, 2020, ahead of the Lunar New Year. (Photo: Bloomberg)

What’s more, the Wold Health Organization has called an emergency meeting for Thursday as it considers issuing an alarm for the virus as a global crisis.

Executive Director of the UN’s Health Emergencies Program, Michael Ryan, said at a Geneva press conference, “The whole world needs to be on alert now. The whole world needs to take action and be ready for any cases that come.”

The indoor season, which ends March, and the World Athletics Indoor Championships are a crucial part of the preparation for many athletes preparing for the long outdoor season, particularly one which includes major global championships, such as this which includes the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.