Athletics: World indoor championships postponed due to coronavirus

The 2020 world athletics indoor championships in Nanjing have been postponed, due to fears over the spread of the coronavirus in China.

The event was scheduled for March 13-15, but World Athletics have pushed them back 12 months.

The world governing body sought advice from the World Health Organisation and turned down hosting offers from other cities.

Two-time defending shot put champion Tom Walsh and former women's champion Dame Val Adams were expected to head a strong New Zealand delegation, including fellow shot-putters Jacko Gill and Madison-Lee Wesche, and middle-distance runner Nick Willis.

Nanjing is 595km from the outbreak epicentre in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

"It is with regret that we have agreed with the organisers of the world athletics indoor championships in Nanjing to postpone the event to March 2021," World Athletics said.

"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."
The coronavirus has killed more than 130 people in China and has spread to 16 countries globally.

About 6000 people have been infected by the virus, which has no specific cure or vaccine.

"The advice from our medical team, who are in contact with the World Health Organisation, is that the spread of the coronavirus both within China and outside the country is still at a concerning level, and no-one should be going ahead with any major gathering that can be postponed," World Athletics added. 

"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.

"The indoor season for athletics falls within a narrow calendar window [up to the end of March] and we believe we will be able to find a suitable date in 2021 to host this event. 

"We would like Nanjing to be the host, given the extensive planning and preparation they have put into this event.

"We have chosen 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."

The announcement comes hot on the heels of news that China's first Winter X Games event has been postponed, due to the outbreak of coronavirus. They were due to take place from February 21-23. 

The 2018 world indoor athletics championships were held in Birmingham and the event is scheduled for Belgrade, Serbia, in 2022.