Coronavirus hits sport: Tour de France to go ahead at end of August, IPL season suspended indefinitely

The postponed 2020 Tour de France will now start on August 29, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, French president Emmanuel Macron said no public event would take place in the country until mid-July, as part of measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than two million people worldwide.

The Tour de France was scheduled for June 27-July 19, but the International Cycling Union (UCI) has rescheduled the event for August 29-September 20.

The UCI added that Italy's Giro and Spain's Vuelta would follow the Tour in a revised calendar, and the men's road race world championships at Martigny, Switzerland, would go ahead as scheduled on September 27.

"Holding this event in the best conditions possible is judged essential, given its central place in cycling's economy and its exposure, in particular for the teams that benefit on this occasion from unparalleled visibility," the UCI said. 

Priority has been given to the Grand Tours and the top one-day races, the sport's governing body said, as it extended the suspension of elite racing until August 1.

"The Giro d'Italia will take place after the UCI worlds and will be followed by the Vuelta Ciclista a Espana," the UCI added.

"The most prestigious one-day road races - the 'Monuments' - Milano-Sanremo (Italy), the Tour des Flandres (Belgium), Paris-Roubaix (France), Liege- Bastogne-Liege (Belgium) and Il Lombardia (Italy) will all take place this season, at dates still to be defined."

Indian Premier League season postponed indefinitely

This year's Indian Premier League has been postponed indefinitely, after the COVID-19 pandemic, key franchise officials have told Reuters.

Originally scheduled to begin on March 29, the eight-team league was initially suspended until Wednesday, even as India entered a three-week lockdown last month.

After the lockdown was extended on Tuesday until at least May 3, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) officials held a teleconference, before informing the franchises about a further delay.

"Well, all we know is that it has been shifted indefinitely and BCCI are working on a window in the future," Delhi Capitals chief executive Dheeraj Malhotra told Reuters.

Tim Southee in action during the Indian Premier League.
Tim Southee in action during the Indian Premier League. Photo credit: Getty

BCCI has yet to make an official announcement, but the CEO of another franchise confirmed the decision.

"We have been informed about it being postponed indefinitely, but we're still waiting for an email from the board with details," the official said, requesting anonymity.

IPL governing council chairman Brijesh Patel did not answer calls from Reuters to elaborate on the league's future plans.

BCCI president Sourav Ganguly had earlier acknowledged the difficulty in hosting the tournament amid lockdown, with travel and other restrictions, due to the global health crisis.

"At the present moment, we can't say anything," the former India captain told New Indian Express newspaper at the weekend.

"Where will you get players from, where do players travel? It's just simple common sense that, at the moment, nothing is in favour of any kind of sport anywhere in the world, forget IPL."

Local media speculated on a possible window in September-October, before this year's Twenty20 World Cup in Australia.

The uncertainty around this year's edition of the IPL is a big setback, particularly for the 62 cricketers bought for a collective US$18.34 million (NZ$30m) at the players' auction in December.

Australian Pat Cummins became IPL's most expensive overseas buy ever, when he was signed by Brendon McCullum's Knight Riders for NZ$3.29m, eclipsing the NZ$3 million fee Rajasthan Royals paid for England superstar Ben Stokes in 2017.

Belgium F1 Grand Prix in doubt 

The fate of this year's Belgian Formula One Grand Prix is in doubt after the country extended a ban on mass gatherings until the end of August due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The race at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit is scheduled for August 30.

Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes told a news conference on Wednesday her government and economic and medical experts would meet next week to organise a gradual return towards normality from early May.

Current F1 champion Lewis Hamilton.
Current F1 champion Lewis Hamilton. Photo credit: Reuters

"The Circuit will await the next communication from the National Security Council," the Spa circuit website said in a statement noting the extension to August 31.

Stijn de Boever, the race's commercial director, told that "over the next couple of days we will ask a lot of questions and consider our options.

"You know the options as well, a different date or a closed event. Even without spectators we would have a lot of people on site to organise the event. What is a mass event? Does that mean 500, 3000 or 5000 people?

"What is certain for me is that Formula One will not take place on the scheduled date with a large number of people."

The Formula One season has yet to start, with nine races so far either cancelled or postponed

France, with a race at Le Castellet on June 28, has yet to be called off but also looks unlikely to go ahead on the current date after the country extended its ban on public events to mid-July.

Formula One has talked about the possibility of running races behind closed doors, however, to meet commercial obligations to broadcasters at least.

They could also run races into January, but the Belgian weather would make that tricky later in the year.

Spa, whose seven kilometre layout in the Ardennes region is the sport's longest lap, drew a three-day crowd of 251,864 last year with many of those Dutch fans crossing the border to cheer on Red Bull's Max Verstappen.