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The shock waves from the coronavirus outbreak rattled sports for another day Friday as the Boston Marathon was postponed, NASCAR pulled the plug on racing for two weekends, IndyCar suspended its season through April, and play in soccer’s English Premier League and Champions League was suspended.
The day’s roundup:
•The Boston Marathon, the world’s most celebrated footrace, was postponed from April 20 until Sept. 14.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced the decision. The Boston Athletic Association, which oversees the marathon, had held off deciding the fate of the race even as other high-profile sports events were canceled or postponed around the globe. But pressure had mounted in recent weeks from officials in Boston and the seven cities and towns along the course. Some had expressed worries not only for the health of the 31,000 registered runners but also the estimated 1 million spectators who traditionally line the route, giving athletes hand slaps and even kisses as they pass.
The Boston Marathon has never been canceled since its first running in 1897, though there was a de facto cancellation in 1918, when the end of World War I and a global influenza pandemic prompted organizers to switch to a relay-race format.
•NASCAR called off this weekend’s Cup, Xfinity and truck series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and next weekend’s events at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Both events already had been scheduled to be run without spectators.
IndyCar also reversed course after saying its season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg would be run without fans and canceled all its races through April. The day after the city of Long Beach, Calif., canceled its April IndyCar race over coronavirus concerns, IndyCar said it would not run its races St. Petersburg, Birmingham, Ala., and Austin, Texas.
Mark Miles, president and CEO of IndyCar parent company Penske Entertainment, said the about-face came as IndyCar and NASCAR saw more and more events and attractions closing.
If IndyCar resumes in May, the season would begin at Indianapolis Motor Speedway first with a race on the road course and then the showcase Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend.
Officials at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, now owned by Roger Penske, said in a statement they were working with public health officials about racing in May. The Indy 500 draws crowds of more than 300,000.
“Currently, we don’t expect any disruptions to our month of May schedule, including the Indy 500,” the speedway said. “Our opening day is nearly 60 days away, which gives us time to continue gathering expert advice and evaluating the most up-to-date information available.”
•In soccer, all five of Europe’s biggest national competitions are now on hold after the Premier League and Champions League were suspended, and the French and German leagues also dropped plans to play this weekend. Spain and Italy previously made similar moves.
Matches in England will be stopped until at least April 3 after five Premier League clubs said some players or staff members were in self-isolation. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has tested positive for the virus, technically known as COVID-19, as has Chelsea wing Callum Hudson-Odoi.
“I had the virus for the last couple of days, which I’ve recovered from,” Hudson-Odoi said in a video posted on social media. “I’m following the health guidelines and self-isolating myself from everybody for the week. I hope to see everybody soon and hopefully be back on the pitch very soon. Take care.”
UEFA said it was stopping next week’s games in all competitions, including the two remaining Champions League matches that had not already been called off, Bayern Munich versus Chelsea and Barcelona versus Napoli, both scheduled for Wednesday.
Games involving Juventus and Real Madrid had already been postponed because those clubs quarantined their players.
Eight Europa League games scheduled for Thursday were also postponed. The quarterfinal draws in the Champions League and Europa League, scheduled for March 20, were postponed as well.
• The U.S. Olympic wrestling trials scheduled for April 4-5 at Penn State were postponed indefinitely. Also postponed was the Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier that was scheduled for March 27-28 at Millersville (Pa.) University.
Some events are still going forward:
•A major prep race for the Kentucky Derby will be run as scheduled next week without spectators. The $1 million Louisiana Derby will run March 21 at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans with only essential staff and credentialed horsemen and media in attendance. The Fair Grounds is joining other tracks in banning fans through the remainder of its racing meet that ends March 29.
•The UFC proceeded with its plans to hold a fan-free event tonight in Brasilia, Brazil. Next weekend, it still planned to stage a full fight card with fans inside London’s O2 Arena. It is moving competitions from areas where large gatherings are now banned to the new UFC Apex complex in Las Vegas. Those events were scheduled for March 28 in Columbus, Ohio, and April 11 in Portland, Ore.
UFC president Dana White attributed his decision partly to a conversation Thursday with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. White and Trump are longtime friends and business associates.
“I talked to the president and the vice president of the United States about this,” White said on ESPN, UFC’s broadcast partner. “They’re taking this very serious. They’re saying, ‘Be cautious, be careful, but live your life and stop panicking.’
“Everybody is panicking, and instead of panicking, we’re actually getting out there and working with doctors and health officials and the government to figure out how we can keep the sport safe and how we can continue to put on events.”
Combat sports are among the most elemental competitive events, with just two fighters and a referee in a cage or ring surrounded by three judges and relatively few vital support personnel. That’s a big reason the UFC believes it can continue while the rest of the sporting world grinds to a halt.
White said the UFC will monitor fighters for symptoms of the coronavirus before allowing them to compete. The UFC issued guidelines to its fighters and employees this week asking them to adhere to standard practices for avoiding contraction and transmission of disease.
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