Author: Sanan NADIROGHLU
The spread of coronavirus since the end of last year (COVİD-19) has forced some countries to close borders. The issue of postponing prestigious competitions to prevent the spread of the virus is one of the hot topics these days.
Matches of the qualifying stage of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar scheduled for March and June were postponed. A decision was made to hold the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Bahrain and the ceremony of lighting and transferring Olympic flame for the 32nd Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo without fans. Series A games in Italy and some matches of the Europa League will also be held without fans. In addition, UEFA and FIDE banned the mandatory handshake of captains during football and chess competitions.
The International Judo Federation (IJF) has postponed until April 30 competitions with licensed points for the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. The executive committee of the organization made this decision because of the coronavirus. The Grand Slam tournament in Yekaterinburg (Russia), the Grand Prix in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and the Turkish city of Antalya were postponed. The IJF statement said that the step was taken to protect athletes and comply with general safety measures in the world. Stressing the danger and criticality of the situation with the coronavirus, the organization noted that detailed information about the competition will be released in the coming days.
Chess without serious players
The fight against the spread of infection did not pass unnoticed for Azerbaijani sports and athletes either. In Azerbaijan, the U-9 – U-17 and Youth League tournaments, the Schoolchildren’s Cup, the Higher League of Girls and the matches of the League of Regions were postponed until March 27. The work of the football academies of the clubs Gabala, Garabagh and Neftchi was interrupted with the young athlets sent home. Competitions in Morocco were postponed, in which our judokas and karatekas were supposed to participate.
The winner of the World Cup, Teymur Rajabov, refused to participate in the Chess Crown Candidates Tournament. His exclusion from the tournament participants in Yekaterinburg came out of the blue. Teymur Rajabov explained his decision to R+: “I thank the chess world of Azerbaijan for its support. My victory in the World Cup is the success of all our people. I am very sorry that I will not participate in the Candidates Tournament. Chess is an intellectual competition where you need to focus only on the game. Given the spread of coronavirus in Russia, I asked the International Chess Federation to postpone the competition to another time. During the tournament, spectators, journalists, chess players will be in a single space for 6-7 hours. In addition, there are 2 representatives of China among the participants. One is coming from China, the other from Japan. The FIDE management spoke the language of the ultimatum to me and announced that the competition would be held at the appointed time. Therefore, I could not participate in the Candidates Tournament.”
2020 is rich in competitions, significant for both Azerbaijan and world sports. In the coming months, Baku is going to hold the European and World Championships in karate, gymnastics, Formula 1, as well as four games of the European Football Championship. In addition, training camps in various countries will be held for Azerbaijani athletes who have won licenses for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Local organization committees say tournaments will be held on time. Special medical teams will work at the competitions with drugs placed in the halls to prevent infection.
The Minister of Youth and Sports Azad Rahimov noted that there is currently no serious threat of coronavirus infection in Azerbaijan: “Azerbajiani authorities continue serious fight against the virus in the country. At the same time, we are in contact with WHO. We don’t go to competitions where there is no need for our participation. Preventive measures are taken with our athletes. All international sports organizations provide information in the host cities. There will be no postponing of competitions scheduled for holding in Azerbaijan.”
Cities and areas where Azerbaijani athletes will conduct training camps are subjected to serious checks. All athletes arriving in our country also undergo a medical examination. This was announced by Vice President of the National Olympic Committee Chingiz Huseynzade. According to him, foreign athletes arriving in Azerbaijan are checked twice: “First of all, the athlete is checked in their country. If he is healthy, they will give him a certificate. The second time the examination is carried out at the Baku airport upon arrival - the temperature and general condition are checked. At the slightest suspicion, the athlete is quarantined.
Preparations for Tokyo 2020 continue. It is recommended that all federations, clubs and societies hold preventive discussions with athletes. Care must be taken when defining training fees. Japan officially announced the holding of the Olympics on time. The International Olympic Committee refuted reports on holding competitions without fans. The President of the Committee said that the fans will attend the Games.
Baku instead of Rome
The rapid increase in the number of coronavirus infected in Italy has cast doubt on the holding of the European Football Championship in Rome. Series A games have already been postponed and the matches of the national championship canceled until April 1. Italian journalists consider it dangerous to hold mass competitions in Rome at the moment. Some offer football games without fans. In the event that Rome is unable to host three Euro 2020 games, UEFA may entrust their organization to Baku. The European football organization will make the final decision at the end of March. For the first time in history, the matches of the European Football Championship will be held in 12 cities. Four of them will take place in Baku.
In fact, the coronavirus was a heavy blow to sports in general with some countries incurring the loss of millions of dollars. However, let's not forget that sports competitions can actually boost the spread of the virus. In the current situation, contacts of athletes with each other during training and competition are a great danger. It is also expected that in the coming days several more major tournaments to be postponed.