The COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak has taken the world by storm. As of Tuesday, March 9th, there have been 118,905 confirmed cases and 4,270 deaths worldwide. China and Italy have been two of the countries hit the hardest by the outbreak of this virus. The virus spreads from through human contact. Because of that, countries, where the virus is most prevalent, have begun to institute health regulations to try and slow the spread of the disease.
The disease seems to have originated in the Wuhan province in China. That area has been completely shut down and a quarantine has been imposed by the Chinese government. Italy is where the virus has hit the hardest in Europe, particularly the northern provinces of Lombardy and Veneto. These provinces have instituted a one-meter policy, where people have to stay one meter apart at all times. Public gatherings have also been shut down. This includes weddings, funerals, concerts, and museums.
Originally, Italy attempted to continue their soccer league, the Serie A, by having games in empty stadiums with no fans in attendance. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Monday that all sporting events, including the Serie A, would be suspended until April 3rd. Travel is being limited so the country cannot have teams traveling to other cities across the country. The Six Nations Rugby match between Italy and England has also been canceled.
The Chinese Basketball Association has been on hold since February due to Coronavirus with plans to resume play April 6th. A number of import players, including multiple former NBA players, have tried to cancel their contracts and sign elsewhere so that they can leave the country. Chasson Randle reached a settlement to be released by Tianjin of the Chinese Basketball and has signed a 10-day-contract with the Golden State Warriors according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN.
This could be the start of the momentary collapse of the sports world. In a joint statement to the media, four of the biggest sports leagues in North America announced that they would also be taking precautions against COVID-19. Major League Soccer, Major League Baseball, the NHL, and the NBA announced on Monday night that they would no longer be allowing journalists into the locker room for pre and post-game interviews with the players. Media members will still be able to speak to coaches and players “in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting.” This effort will limit the amount contact that occurs in scrums between the players and coaches and members of the media. A number of athletes have also announced that they will no longer be signing fan autographs until the threat of coronavirus calms down.
The NCAA March Madness basketball tournament will be the first major sporting event that could potentially test playing games with no fans in attendance. The tournament begins March 17th and will be taking place in sixteen cities. For the most part, it has been business as usual for the NCAA. All of the conference tournaments have begun except for the Ivy League which canceled their yearly tournament. This might not be as big of a deal as people think as the Ivy League was the last conference to institute an official tournament prior to March Madness in 2017. There is not as much history and perhaps more importantly money involved in the Ivy League tournament.
Tennis is also at a crossroads as they have canceled the Indian Wells tournament in California. Indian Wells is one of the biggest non-major tournaments on the tour and annually brings in nearly 500,000 fans over the course of the tournament. This cancelation has called into question whether the French Open will take place at the end of May.
The biggest question remaining is if the International Olympic Committee will move forward with the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Canceling the Olympics is not something done lightly. The last three times the Olympics were canceled were due to two World Wars in 1944, 1940, and 1916. The IOC canceling the Olympics due to health concerns would be unprecedented and would cost the organization a fortune. In times of crisis, athletics are often something that society can rally behind. COVID-19 could bring an end to athletics in 2020.