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Coronavirus in China forces move of Olympic qualifiers in soccer, basketball, boxing

Amid growing concern at the spread of a new virus outbreak in China, international sports have been postponed and Olympic qualifying tournaments are being taken elsewhere.

Ski federation cancels first World Cup races slated for mid-Februrary at Yanqing

A women's Olympic field hockey qualifier scheduled for Feb. 8-9 in Changzhou was postponed Tuesday by the International Hockey Federation amid growing concern at the spread of the coronavirus in China. (Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images for FIH/File)

Amid growing concern about the spread of a new virus in China, international sports in the country have been postponed and Olympic qualifying tournaments have been taken elsewhere.

The indoor world athletics championships in Nanjing were postponed by a year on Wednesday, while the international ski federation cancelled the first World Cup races scheduled for the mountain venue where the sport will be held during the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

The governing body of athletics said the indoor worlds will now be held in March 2021 instead of March 13-15 this year.

"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," World Athletics said in a statement.

Nanjing is located about 530 kilometres (330 miles) from Wuhan, where the virus emerged.

In Alpine skiing, a men's downhill had been scheduled for Feb. 15 in Yanqing to start a two-race weekend.

Field hockey Pro League games postponed

"Due to the outbreak and continuing spread of the Novel Coronavirus, FIS, the Chinese Ski Association and its Yanqing Local Organizing Committee, have jointly decided to cancel," FIS said in a statement.

The ski federation said it would advise later if the downhill and super-G races will be be rescheduled.

That followed a decision by the international field hockey federation to postpone Pro League games in China. Qualifying tournaments for the Tokyo Olympics in soccer, basketball and boxing scheduled for next month have been moved outside of the country.

The Chinese women's team in field hockey was due to host Belgium for two games on Feb. 8-9 in Changzhou. Those were postponed on Tuesday by the FIH citing "current uncertainties around the outbreak of the coronavirus in China."

The Lausanne-based governing body said it was "following the recommendations of the World Health Organization," ahead of future matches. China hosts Australia for two games on March 14-15.

The biggest upcoming event in China is the Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19, which draws large crowds for the race and for practice and qualifying.

Olympic qualifying events have been affected in recent days. Women's soccer and women's basketball games were moved to Australia and Serbia. The soccer games had already previously moved from Wuhan, at the centre of the outbreak, to Nanjing. Boxing tournaments for the Asia and Oceania regions will be held in Jordan in March.

Women's soccer shifted to Australia

Women's soccer and women's basketball games were moved to Australia and Serbia, respectively. The soccer games were previously moved from Wuhan, at the centre of the outbreak, to Nanjing. Boxing tournaments for the Asia and Oceania regions will be held in Jordan in March.

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Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike acknowledged her concern about the virus speaking Wednesday to the heads of 62 municipalities.

"With only 177 days to go and our preparations accelerating, we must firmly tackle the new coronavirus to contain it, or we are going to regret it," Koike said. "I will do the utmost to contain this new problem as we co-operate closely with all of you."

Tokyo Olympic organizers put out a generic statement on Wednesday and offered no details.

"Countermeasures against infectious diseases constitute an important part of our plans to host a safe and secure games," the statement said. It said Tokyo would "carefully monitor any incidence of infectious diseases and we will review any countermeasures that may be necessary with all relevant organizations."

More than 100 deaths in China have been recorded due to the disease, including the first in Beijing. There were more than 5,700 suspected cases — of which more than 2,700 were confirmed — as of Monday, the World Health Organization reported

The new coronavirus seems to spread less easily among people than SARS or influenza. Most cases involve family members and health workers who had contact with patients.

Hong Kong to suspend rail services

Cases have been reported in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, the United States, Australia, Canada and Germany.

Hong Kong is to suspend rail services on Thursday linking it to mainland China.

The coronavirus family includes the common cold but also more severe illnesses. It causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath and pneumonia.

The virus is thought to have spread to people from wild animals sold at a market in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people now in lockdown.

Future sports events in China include a qualifying game for soccer's 2022 World Cup on March 26, against Maldives, and the China Open golf tournament, part of the European Tour, on April 23-26 in Shenzhen.

Also Wednesday, Danish soccer club Aalborg said it had decided not to play a friendly against Chinese team Wuhan Zall in Spain.

"We are aware that the risk of infection may be microscopic, and little is still known about the virus, but in consultation with the [club], management, staff and the health sector, we have agreed not to expose anyone," Aalborg managing director Thomas Baelum said.

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