Coronavirus: Here's what's happening in the sports world this weekend

Stay up to date on the latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting sports around the globe.

Olympic torch handover taking place in empty stadium

(Illustration by Steve Tzemis/CBC)

The latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting sports around the globe:

  • Olympic torch handover will happen in an empty Athens stadium
  • Toronto Wolfpack on hold as 4 players go into self-islolation 
  • Piston Christian Wood becomes 3rd NBA player to test positive for COVID-19: reports
  • Italy to ask UEFA to postpone Euros
  • Japanese PM says Tokyo to host 2020 Olympics as planned
  • World Curling Federation cancels men's world championships

Olympic torch handover taking place in empty stadium

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games flame handover in Athens next week will be done in an empty stadium amid the coronavirus outbreak, Greece's Olympic Committee said on Sunday. Greece on Friday cancelled the remainder of the domestic Olympic torch relay through the country to avoid attracting crowds a day after the Tokyo Games flame was lit in ancient Olympia.

"The Hellenic Olympic Committee has decided that the handover ceremony for the "Tokyo 2020" Olympic Games, on Thursday, March 19, will take place at the Panathenaic Stadium behind closed doors," it said in a statement.

Wolfpack on hold as 4 players go into self-isolation 

Four Toronto Wolfpack players have been told to self-isolate after experiencing "mild possible symptoms of COVID-19."

The transatlantic rugby league team, which is currently based in England, played the Leeds Rhinos on March 5. Leeds subsequently advised that one of its players had self-isolated after showing "symptoms of possible coronavirus."

The Wolfpack, who subsequently played the Huddersfield Giants in Coral Challenge Cup action Wednesday, said they have "stood down our entire playing staff in the U.K."

England's Super League is one of the few English leagues to continue playing during the virus outbreak.

Toronto, which had the weekend off, is slated to play next March 22 at Wakefield Trinity. The Wolfpack aren't scheduled to play at home until April 18.

NBA star makes donation to improve coronavirus testing

Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns has announced he'll donate $100,000 to the Mayo Clinic for testing for the COVID-19 virus.

The Minnesota-based medical system said it expects the money from Towns will help increase capacity for COVID-19 from 200 tests per day to more than 1,000 per day in the coming weeks.

The Mayo Clinic has been working for the past month on developing its own test for the virus to supplement other existing avenues.

Italy to ask UEFA to postpone Euros

The Italian soccer federation is planning to ask UEFA to postpone the European Championship.

Federation president Gabriele Gravina tells Mediaset TV that Italian officials want Serie A to be completed by June 30.

The Stadio Olimpico in Rome is slated to host the opening match of Euro 2020 on June 12, plus three other games of the tournament.

Gravina says, "The hope is to finish by June 30. And we'll need to insert the Champions League and Europa League also. The deadline is June 30, then we'll eventually see if we need to exceed that."

He adds, "We'll propose to UEFA that they postpone the Euros."

Serie A is currently suspended until April 3, along with all other sports in Italy, the European epicentre of the virus outbreak.

UEFA has a meeting planned on Tuesday to discuss the calendar.

The virus outbreak has also tested the limits of soccer's World Cup schedule.

Ezequiel Garay becomes 1st La Liga player infected

Valencia's Argentine defender Ezequiel Garay says that he has tested positive for the coronavirus, making him the first Spanish league player to become infected.

"I have tested positive for the coronavirus," Garay wrote on a social media account Sunday. "I feel well and now the only thing to do is to follow the instructions of health officials to remain confined."

Valencia added in a statement that a total of five members of its staff and team have the new virus, without specifying if Garay is the only player. It says that all are in good health and confined at their homes.

Garay, who is recovering from surgery after tearing a ligament in February, said in a message posted on Instagram that "it's clear that 2020 is starting on the wrong foot."

On Saturday, fellow Spanish club Alaves said that two members of its coaching staff had the virus. It said they are in good health.

The Spanish league has suspended play due to the pandemic.

Yankees minor leaguer 1st known virus case in baseball

A minor leaguer for the New York Yankees tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend, becoming the first known player affiliated with Major League Baseball to contract COVID-19.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Sunday that a "younger player" was affected, without identifying him. Cashman said the player "feels much better" and his symptoms had subsided, but he was still isolated.

"He did not have any interactions with our major league players," Cashman said on a conference call.

The Miami Marlins, meanwhile, became the first organization to completely close their complex. Big leaguers were told to take a break and avoid group activities. The Marlins' move was a team decision, rather than something mandated by Major League Baseball. MLB was expected to update clubs on its health policy Monday.

Major League Baseball cancelled the rest of spring training on Thursday and delayed the start of the regular season for at least two weeks due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Pistons' Christian Wood tests positive for virus: reports

Christian Wood of the Detroit Pistons has tested positive for the coronavirus, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said Saturday night.

Wood is feeling fine, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the Pistons nor Wood had publicly confirmed his positive result. Wood's diagnosis became known one week after he played against the Utah Jazz — spending much of that night matched up with Rudy Gobert, who was the first NBA player known to test positive for the virus.

Utah's Donovan Mitchell has also tested positive for the virus. It cannot be concluded that any of those three players were involved in spreading it to one another.

The Pistons later confirmed that a player — they did not name Wood — tested positive Saturday and has been in self-isolation.

"A player on the Detroit Pistons, who is under the care of team medical staff and in self-isolation since Wednesday night, was tested for COVID-19," the team said. "A preliminary positive result came back on March 14. The health and safety of our players, our organization, those throughout our league, and all those potentially impacted by this situation is paramount."

Gobert steps up

Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz offered the first of what he said will be "many steps" he will take to help with the coronavirus pandemic, pledging Saturday to donate more than $500,000 US to relief efforts.

Gobert, who was the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19 — a diagnosis that prompted the NBA to suspend its season for at least a month — said he is giving $200,000 to part-time employees at the arena that plays host to Jazz games to help cover their lost wages.

He also pledged $100,000 each to assist families affected by the pandemic in Oklahoma City, where he was when the diagnosis came, and Utah. He also is giving 100,000 Euros ($111,450 USD) to relief efforts in France, earmarking that for childcare assistance to health care workers as well as for caregivers to the elderly.

"I am humbled by the tireless efforts and care of people around the globe for those affected by COVID-19, especially my own communities of Utah and France, in addition to my appreciation for the state of Oklahoma and my care there, and of course, my Utah Jazz family," Gobert said in a release distributed by the Jazz.

"I know there are countless ways that people have been impacted," Gobert continued. "These donations are a small token that reflect my appreciation and support for all those impacted and are the first of many steps I will take to try and make a positive difference, while continuing to learn more about COVID-19 and educate others."

Japanese PM says Tokyo to host 2020 Olympics as planned

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his country still intends to host the Olympic Games in Tokyo as planned.

Abe says there were no discussions about postponing or cancelling the games during talks with U.S. President Donald Trump, who suggested this week that Japan should consider postponing the Olympics because of the spread of the coronavirus.

Abe says Japan is continuing to "co-ordinate well" with the International Olympic Committee, adding: "We have to overcome the spread of the infection and want to hold the Olympics and Paralympics as planned."

The Olympic Games are scheduled to take place from July 24-Aug. 9, and the Paralympics Aug. 25-Sept. 6.

Abe says the virus outbreak has not reached a point in Japan that requires him to declare a national emergency like the United States and parts of Europe.

Men's curling world championship cancelled

The men's curling world championship in Glasgow, Scotland, was cancelled on Saturday.

The World Curling Federation confirmed the decision in accordance with the Scottish government's protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Brad Gushue's rink from Newfoundland and Labrador was going to represent Canada at the world championship March 28 to April 5 after winning the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier earlier this month.

Canoe Kayak Canada cancels Olympic, Paralympic team trials

Canoe Kayak Canada announced that they have cancelled their upcoming Olympic and Paralympic team trials due to the novel coronavirus.

The organization made the decision on Saturday in light of the Canadian government's recommendation to avoid non-essential travel outside out of the country.

"This was an extremely difficult decision for the leadership team at CKC," Chief Technical Officer Graham Barton said in a statement.

"I have been in the training environment and seen first hand the dedication and commitment of our athletes, but what I admire most is the professionalism, understanding and belief that we, as team, must do what is best for the health and safety of all. I am confident we will adapt and plan for all the contingencies in the coming months and that our team will be ready."

The trials were scheduled for April 16-19 in Gainesville, Ga.

Lakers, Clippers, Kings to help arena workers

The Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers and Kings, along with Staples Center, have joined together to set up a fund to provide financial help to all hourly arena workers impacted by the stoppage of games.

The fund will help compensate for lost wages through the end of the NBA and NHL regular seasons. Payments will go to over 2,800 workers, including ushers, ticket sellers and takers, security, parking attendants, merchandise staff, food and beverage employees, housekeeping, operations staff and stagehands.

ECHL season, playoffs nixed over coronavirus fears

The ECHL has cancelled the rest of its 2019-20 season.

The league's Board of Governors approved the cancellation on Saturday, two days after the league suspended play amid rising developments of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

"The decision by the ECHL to cancel the remainder of the 2019-20 season does not come lightly, as this is an emotional time for our players, coaches, member teams, fans and staff," ECHL commissioner Ryan Crelin said in a statement.

"At this point in the season, there has been immense dedication and countless hours committed in moving towards what is traditionally the most exciting part of the hockey year."

The defending champion Newfoundland Growlers ended their season with a 42-17-0-1 record to sit atop the league's North Division. The Brampton Beast were in third place in the division prior to the league being suspended with a 34-25-3-0 record.

Hall of Fame closures

The Baseball Hall of Fame said it will close to the public beginning Sunday at 5 p.m. because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Cooperstown, New York, shrine will provide updated information regarding this closure on each subsequent Sunday.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is closing temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic.The museum in Canton, Ohio says it will be closed to the public from Monday through March 27. The Hall says it "will continue to closely monitor the situation and maintain ongoing communication with state and local health officials."

Curling events cancelled in Kelowna

The World Curling Federation announced on Saturday that the world mixed doubles and world senior curling championships in Kelowna, B.C. have been cancelled.

These final two world curling championships of the season were due to take place April 18-25.

"This decision comes following a recommendation from British Columbia's Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and careful deliberation with public health officials and event organizers, along with various national travel restrictions that have come into place around the world in the past 48 hours," the World Curling Federation said in a press release.

Raptors players, staff test negative after contact with Jazz

Toronto Raptors players and staff who underwent testing for COVID-19 earlier this week are "all currently negative" for the virus, with one result pending, the team said Friday.

The Raptors provided an update on Saturday, saying that test results pertaining to all members of the organization who were tested are negative.

The Raptors underwent testing for the novel coronavirus after learning that a player on the Utah Jazz, a team they recently faced, had the virus.

"All of the members of the travel party who were tested on Wednesday in Toronto have received their results, and they are all currently negative. Results for one additional person are pending," the Raptors had said in a release.

"These results will not affect our protocols, however. Those asked to self-isolate by Toronto Public Health will continue to do so. We will all practice social distancing and good hand hygiene, and — most importantly — carefully monitor our health."

Two more Serie A players test positive

Two more Fiorentina players have tested positive for COVID-19 as well as a club physiotherapist.

The top-tier Italian league soccer team tweets that defender and club captain German Pezzella, forward Patrick Cutrone and physiotherapist Stefano Dainelli "are in good health at their homes in Florence." They were tested after "showing some symptoms."

There are now nine Serie A players who have tested positive.

London marathon postponed to October due to coronavirus

The annual London marathon which was due to take place on April 26 has been postponed to Oct. 4 because of coronavirus, the organizers said on Friday, marking the latest in a long line of major international sport events disrupted by the pandemic. "The world is in an unprecedented situation grappling with a global pandemic of COVID-19 and public health is everyone's priority," event director Hugh Brasher said in a statement.

FIFA recommends March, April internationals be postponed

FIFA has recommended that all international matches scheduled to be played in March and April be postponed because of the coronavirus and said that clubs would not be obliged to release players for any games that go ahead. The South American and Asian World Cup qualifiers which were due to be played have already been postponed. However, European body UEFA has not yet called off the Euro 2020 playoff matches which involve a total of 16 teams.

Triathlon Canada suspends season for six weeks

Triathlon Canada is suspending its season for six weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the organization plans to go ahead with world championship events scheduled later this summer in two Canadian cities.

Triathlon Canada announced Friday night in a statement that it would suspend its season until April 30.

"As the situation is changing rapidly in Canada and around the globe, we felt it was most prudent to ensure we as a sport are doing our part to protect our communities and fellow vulnerable citizens during this unprecedented time," Triathlon Canada said.

"Our goal is to ensure that we have a successful racing season — including staging world championship events in Montreal and Edmonton later this summer. Our hope is that by taking extra precautionary measures now, we will all be able to be back on a start line as soon as possible."

Wuhan soccer squad bolts Spain to escape virus

The Chinese soccer team that was originally stuck in Spain because of the coronavirus outbreak is going back home to try to avoid its rapid spread in Europe.

Wuhan Zall was expected to return to China on Saturday, nearly 1 1/2 months after it arrived in Spain for pre-season training. The team had not been able to leave because of the restrictions in China, but expedited its departure because of the worsening situation in Spain.

The team initially planned to leave Spain mid-February but had extended its stay in the southern region of the country until at least the end of March. That plan changed this week because of the sharp spike in the number of cases in Spain and Europe generally.

"Things are well over there [in China] now," Jose Gonzalez, the team's Spanish coach, told The Associated Press. "The Chinese league will likely start at the beginning of May. We will have to enter quarantine when we arrive, so the sooner we leave, the better."

The team will first go to the city of Shenzhen, where it is expected to finish its preseason training for the Chinese Super League, the country's main first-division soccer competition. The league was supposed to start on Feb. 22 but was suspended because of the virus.

The city of Wuhan was the epicentre of the outbreak that rapidly spread to other countries and infected more than 145,000 people worldwide, with 5,400 deaths.

Canadian Olympic, Paralympic swim trials postponed

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic swimming trials have been postponed due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

Swimming Canada announced the postponement Friday, following an order from the Ontario provincial government to restrict gatherings of more than 250 people.

The trials were scheduled to take place from March 30 to April 5 at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.

"With 3,000 to 5,000 people expected to attend daily, our Olympic and Paralympic trials would grossly exceed the recommendations from Ontario's chief medical officer," Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi said in a release.

Bettman yet to put timeline on NHL 'pause'

The NHL is telling its players and staff to stay away from the rink and self-isolate while hockey is on a hiatus of unknown length during the coronavirus pandemic.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday he was not aware of any player or league employee testing positive for the new coronavirus, but he can't say for certain that no one is feeling ill or awaiting test results. The league announced Thursday it was putting its season on "pause," but Bettman remains optimistic of resuming play and eventually awarding the Stanley Cup.

Bettman told owners the first positive test result by any player would mean "all bets are off" and that the decision to suspend the season came after what happened in the NBA. There are some 700 players among the 31 NHL teams across North America.

Woodbine racetracks closing to general public

Woodbine Mohawk Park and Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto will be closed to the general public starting tomorrow for a minimum of two weeks.

Woodbine Entertainment, which operates the two racetracks, made the decision following the recommendation of Ontario's Chief Medical Officer to suspend all large events and public gatherings.

Live harness racing at Mohawk Park in Milton, Ont., will continue as scheduled but without spectators and only essential staff.

Woodbine Entertainment does not operate the casinos in either of its properties.

Elements Casino at Woodbine Mohawk Park and Casino Woodbine at Woodbine Racetrack remain open and any updates will be provided directly from the operators of the casinos.

As an additional precaution, Woodbine Entertainment is screening all horsepeople entering the paddocks at the two facilities, which will also have highly restricted access for licensed personnel only.

Plans to open the thoroughbred season remain scheduled for April 18 but are subject to an ongoing assessment of the situation.

With files from CBC Sports, The Canadian Press, Reuters & Field Level Media


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