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Fears are mounting that coronavirus could throw this summer’s Tokyo Olympics into chaos, with multiple sporting events have been postponed, moved or cancelled, and others now cast into doubt. There is no denying that the pathogen is going to have a huge impact on the final stages of the Olympic qualifying process. It may impact the Olympics, too.
The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, which began in China in late December, the number of cases is now over 97,000 in at least 47 countries. Nearly 3,300 have died as a result, the ramifications have spread to nearly every aspect of life, with sports no exception. It has plunged the global sporting calendar into disarray and cast a shadow over preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Cases are spreading across India too, qualifying events are being cancelled, and athletes around the world are not allowed to take in the qualifier games with travel being cut off. The decision comes after the government imposed several restrictions on the entry of travellers from affected countries such as China, Italy, South Korea, Japan and Iran, in a bid to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
The pandemic's effect has been felt across a range of sports - from athletics, weightlifting, rowing and basketball to shooting, tennis and badminton.
Of course, a cancellation or postponement - somehow would remove the need for athletes to stress over qualification, but with Tokyo 2020 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) insisting the event will go ahead as planned, providing them with every chance to book an Olympic place should be the highest priority for the IOC and International Federations (IFs).
Since the Corona outbreak, at least 10 events which offer some form of Olympic qualification – either directly or indirectly – have been postponed or cancelled. In many cases, athletes are still waiting for new dates and locations of these competitions to be confirmed.
Given the growing fears and uncertainty in the Olympic Movement and beyond regarding the virus, more postponements and cancellations are likely to follow. It is paramount, that the International Olympic Committee (IOC), alongside International Federations (Ifs), reach the fair solutions they have promised to ensure athletes are not denied the chance to compete at the Games for reasons entirely beyond their control.
A handful of athletes opted to skip the competition, instead prioritising participating at the Olympic qualifier, a decision which could see them miss out on a hallowed Tokyo 2020 berth.
Qualification events, particularly in Asia, have been shifted from one place to another and even moved again in certain instances, wreaking havoc on athletes’ travel plans, training and preparation.
The Asian wrestling qualifier for the Games was due to take place in Bishkek, where former world champion Mirabai Chanu and eight other Indians were to compete, has been postponed due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. After being relocated from Xi’an, before Kyrgyzstan cancelled the event because of the outbreak and no replacement host has yet been found.
Athletes from a growing number of countries have also been hampered by restrictions on travel to countries worst hit by the virus, preventing them from competing and leading many to wonder whether they will even be able to take part at an Olympic qualifier, let alone the Games themselves.
But other athletes’ hopes are pinned to competitions. These qualifying events have been scheduled for months, and international sports federations and Tokyo organizers can’t simply put them on hold when the Olympics are only five months away and experts can’t predict how long the coronavirus outbreak will last.
Sport, at its most basic, is about winning, but for many countries worldwide, it is the taking part at the Games that counts.
And that lingering concern for athletes fearful of missing out far outweighs fears over whether the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will happen at all.
Here’s a list of sporting events affected India’s major and Olympic qualifying campaign due to epidemic
Athletics: The Asian 20km Race Walk Championships in Japan scheduled for 15 March, where 13 Indians were to take part, has been cancelled. Tokyo Olympics-bound Bhawana Jat was to lead the Indian challenge in the event earlier scheduled for Nomi City.
Athletics: The 18th Federation Cup National Junior Athletics Championships, scheduled to be held from April 6-8, was postponed till further notice due to Coronavirus outbreak.
Weightlifting: The Asian Weightlifting Championship in April, an Olympic qualifying event, where former world champion Mirabai Chanu and eight other Indians were to compete, has been postponed due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Badminton: The team event of Badminton Asia Championships was subdued after China and Hong Kong were forced to withdraw. The tournament taking place in Manila saw the two countries pull out due to the travel restrictions imposed on Chinese nationals by the Philippines government. Additionally, India women's team pulled out late with their male counterparts going ahead.
Hockey: Indian women's hockey team was scheduled to travel to China from 14 to 25 March but that has been called off.
Basketball: The FIBA 3x3 basketball Olympic qualifying tournament, scheduled to be held in Bengaluru from 18 to 22 March, was on postponed in view of the coronvirus outbreak.
Table Tennis: World team championships in Busan, South Korea postponed from 22-29 May to 21-28 June.
Weightlifting: The Asian Weightlifting Championship in April, an Olympic qualifying event, where former world champion Mirabai Chanu and eight other Indians were to compete, has been postponed due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. And the Junior world championships in Bucharest, Romania from 14-24 March cancelled.
Wrestling: The Asian Olympic Wrestling Qualifiers, slated to begin in March in Bishkek, have been postponed following a directive by the Kyrgyzstan government.
Shooting: Delhi shooting Word Cup postponed with China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, North Korea and Turkmenistan have pulled out of the event that was scheduled on 15-26 March.