Coronavirus impact on Indian sport and Tokyo Olympics preparation

The Indian government's latest travel advisory is a blow to Saina Nehwal's slender hopes of qualifying for Tokyo 2020. Shi Tang/Getty Images

The novel coronavirus has led to the cancellation or rescheduling of numerous sporting events as well as athletes withdrawing from notable tournaments over the past few weeks.

How is the global pandemic affecting Indian athletes in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics? Which events involving Indian participants have been cancelled or postponed? We track key events across sport.

(We will update this story regularly with latest news on sporting events involving Indian athletes being cancelled or postponed because of the coronavirus.)


LATEST - A day before the Indian athletics season was to begin in Patiala, the Indian Grand Prix has been called off due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.


LATEST - I-League side Chennai City FC's next two AFC Cup games will not be held as scheduled after the Asian Football Confederation on Wednesday postponed all matches of the continental competition until April end due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Following the imposition of further preventive measures and travel restrictions by several national governments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has decided today to postpone all AFC Cup 2020 matches until further notice," the AFC said in a statement.

In their first group match, Chennai City had played out a 2-2 draw with Maziya Sports and Recreation of Maldives in Chennai on March 11.

Meanwhile, the final of the Indian Super League (ISL), won by ATK who beat Chennaiyin FC 3-1 in Goa on March 14, was held behind closed doors.

The All India Football Federation suspended tournaments at all levels -- including the I-League -- until March 31. India's 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier match against Qatar scheduled for March 26 in Bhubaneswar has been postponed.


LATEST - BWF has suspended all tournaments until April 12. The events that are cancelled include the Swiss Open, India Open, Orleans Open, Malaysia Open and Singapore Open, apart from a number of Grade 3 events.

Earlier, the India Open, a crucial event for Tokyo Olympic qualification, was be held without any spectators, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) had announced. The BAI had even written to the Badminton World Federation (BWF) asking for the Super 500 tournament, scheduled for March 24-29 in New Delhi, to be postponed. However, BAI and the BWF had later issued a joint statement saying the event will go ahead as originally planned.

India's HS Prannoy, Sameer Verma and Sourabh Verma had already pulled out of the All England Open.

These delays are crucial as ranking points earned until April 26 will determine who makes the cut for the Tokyo Olympics.


On March 13, the BCCI decided to defer IPL 2020 until April 15. The tournament was scheduled to start on March 29.

The decision to call off the two remaining matches of the ODI series between India and South Africa -- in Lucknow (March 15) and Kolkata (March 18) -- was also taken the same day.


The All India Chess Federation (AICF) has postponed all national championships till May 31, in view of the outbreak.


LATEST - All Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) tournaments scheduled for after March 16 have been postponed "till such time the situation allows and the Government declares it safe," PGTI said in a statement. "We will continue to take advice from the relevant authorities while monitoring the situation closely before deciding on the rescheduled dates for the events in Gujarat, Pune, Noida and Chandigarh," it added.


LATEST - Thirteen Indian boxers and almost an equal number of coaching staff members have been "home-quarantined" for a few days on returning from the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Jordan on Thursday. Although all members have gotten the necessary health clearances, this has been done as a precautionary measure, Boxing Federation of India (BFI) Executive Director RK Sacheti said.

Of these 13, nine boxers - including Mary Kom, Vikas Krishan and Amit Panghal - sealed Tokyo Olympics berths in Amman, where the qualifiers were shifted from Wuhan after the outbreak began in the Chinese city.


LATEST - The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) has recommended to the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) that the New Delhi World Cup, scheduled for March 15-26, be postponed due to the outbreak. More details here.

ESPN understands that the Indian contingent, which had plans to train in South Korea pre-Games, will not be doing so because of the outbreak in the country. India also pulled out of the ISSF shotgun World Cup to be held between March 4 and 13 in Cyprus, citing the threat posed by the novel coronavirus.


The Fed Cup finals scheduled to be held in Budapest, Hungary, in April and playoffs that were to be held in various locations worldwide have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said on Wednesday. India were to face Latvia or the Netherlands in the playoffs in April. Meanwhile, following the cancellation of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, the ATP and WTA announced a six-week suspension of their tours.


The 3x3 basketball Olympic qualifiers scheduled to be held in Bengaluru between March 18-22 have been postponed.

Race walking

The Asian 20km Race Walk Championships scheduled for March 15 in Nomi, Japan have been cancelled due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Thirteen Indians were to take part in the event, with Tokyo Olympics-bound Bhawana Jat leading the country's challenge. The Asian Athletics Association (AAA) took the decision to cancel the championship after a request from the Japan federation.

Table tennis

India's highest-ranked player G Sathiyan's pre-Olympic training plans have been thrown off gear. The world body, ITTF, had proposed to hold a camp in Japan a week ahead of the Japan Open (April 21-26) which Sathiyan was also hoping to be part of, but now the tournament itself appears to be in doubt.


The Olympic qualifying tournament to be held between March 27 - 29 at Bishkek in the Kyrgyz Republic has been cancelled, the Kyrgyz ministry of Youth, Physical Culture and Sports has announced.


The cancellation of the World Indoor Championships in China (Nanjing, March 13-15) has landed a body blow to Dutee Chand's Olympic qualification aspirations. It was preceded by the calling off of the Asian Indoor Championships (Hangzhou, February 12-13), which much like the World meet was focal to Dutee's plans of building on her speed to shave 0.07s off her 11.22s personal best. Both events have been cancelled summarily with no alternate venues proposed. The qualifying mark for the 100m women's event is set at 11.15, a steep ask for Dutee.

Dutee is likely to participate at the Indian Grand Prix legs in Sangrur, Patiala and New Delhi in March followed by the Federation Cup in April.


The Asian Weightlifting Championships 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.

India were to send five men, including Youth Olympics gold medallist Jeremy Lalrinnunga (67kg), and four women, including Chanu (49kg), to the April 16-25 gold-level Olympic qualifying event in Uzbekistan.

An official of the Indian Weightlifting Federation said that the international parent body will take a decision on the way forward in a meeting on March 17-18 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Asian Weightlifting Championships had earlier been relocated from Kazakhstan to Tashkent in neighbouring Uzbekistan.


The Asian Team Championship scheduled in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from March 25-29 as well as the Asian Junior Individual Championship thereafter in Quingdao, China June 29 to July 3, have been postponed.