Chinese F1 postponed over coronavirus fears

People walk past a poster for the Chinese Grand Prix, Formula One's 1,000th world championship race Shanghai, China - April 11, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 12 February 2020

Chinese F1 postponed over coronavirus fears

  • FIA said promotors of the Shanghai race had requested a postponement “in view of the continued spread of novel coronavirus”
  • The Shanghai race becomes the latest sports event to fall victim to the virus outbreak

PARIS: The Chinese Grand Prix scheduled for April 19 has been postponed because of the “continued spread” of the deadly coronavirus, motorsport’s governing body FIA announced Wednesday.
FIA said promotors of the Shanghai race had requested a postponement “in view of the continued spread of novel coronavirus,” now named COVID-19.
“As a result of continued health concerns and with the @WHO (World Health Organization) declaring the coronavirus as a global health emergency, the FIA and @F1 Formula 1 have taken these measures in order to ensure the health and safety of the traveling staff, championship participants and fans.”
The Shanghai race, the fourth of the new season, becomes the latest — but easily the most high-profile — sports event to fall victim to the virus outbreak which has killed more than 1,100 people in China, where it emerged at the end of last year.
The postponement also throws into doubt the inaugural race in Vietnam, which takes place two weeks before but where there have also been cases of COVID-19.
“The FIA and @F1 continue to work closely with the teams, promoter, CAMF and local authorities to monitor the situation,” FIA said in relation to the Shanghai postponement.

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“All parties will take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates later in the year should the situation improve.”
That could prove tricky with FIA organizing a record-breaking 22 Grand Prix this season, including the Shanghai race.
FIA added: “The Chinese Grand Prix has long been an important part of the F1 calendar with many passionate fans. The FIA F1 community looks forward to racing in China as soon as possible and wishes everyone in the country the best during this difficult time.
“The global situation regarding this virus will continue to be monitored by the FIA with regard to other motor sport events.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, speaking in London on Monday, said not going to Shanghai would be a “shame.”
“We had full grand stands last year,” he said, adding that China was beginning to become a “really important market in terms of fan followership.”
“Not going there would not be great for the fans and ourselves, but health comes first.”
China has been forced to cancel or put off a host of sporting events due to the coronavirus epidemic, from suspending all football in the country to postponing the first badminton tournament of the 2020 world tour season.
The world’s most populous country has increasingly become a powerhouse in hosting international sport in recent years, but has had its sporting calendar thrown into chaos.
Athletics’ World Indoor Championships, scheduled for Nanjing in March 13-15, have been postponed for a year.
The Chinese Formula E Grand Prix, due to take place in Sanya on the southern island of Hainan on March 21, was called off “after close consultation” with government authorities.


Saudi Women’s Football League launched

Updated 24 February 2020

Saudi Women’s Football League launched

  • The first season of the WFL, a nationwide initiative, will be held in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam
  • League inaugurated by president of Saudi Sports for All Federation

RIYADH/DUBAI: Community sports for female athletes in the Kingdom took another giant step forward after the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) inaugurated on Monday the Women’s Football League (WFL) at a launch event in Riyadh. 

It is the latest initiative led by SFA President Prince Khaled bin Al-Waleed bin Talal to promote grassroots sports activities for budding female and male athletes across Saudi Arabia.

SFA President Prince Khaled bin Al-Waleed bin Talal (L) (AN Photo/Bashir Saleh)

“The development of the WFL came about because we understood there was a need for community-level football for women,” Prince Khaled told Arab News.

“This community league is the first activation of many different community-level sports for women, and it will serve as a great model in terms of league infrastructure and inclusion metrics, contributing to Saudi Vision 2030 and the Quality of Life program.”

Fully funded by the SFA, the WFL is a nationwide community-level league for women aged 17 and above.

In its first season, it will take place in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, with more cities potentially joining in due course. 

With a prize of SR500,000 ($133,285) at stake, the WFL will consist of preliminary rounds taking place across the three cities to establish regional champions.

The winners progress to a knockout competition, the WFL Champions Cup, to determine the national champion, with the date of the final to be announced later in the season. 

Prince Khaled thanked King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority, for their “boundless support.”

 

 

The WFL “is one more major leap forward for the future of our country, our health, our youth, and our ambitions to see every athlete be recognized and nurtured to their fullest capability,” said Prince Khaled. 

Women’s football is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup raised its profile to unprecedented levels, inspiring greater participation across the globe.

Inspiration for female footballers at the grassroots level has come from closer to home, Prince Khaled said.

“I think a big inspiration for young Saudi women to get involved in community-level football is the Saudi Greens Team,” he said, referring to the all-female team established by the SFA.

“The Saudi Greens placed second in the Global Goals World Cup last year, and this was a huge moment for young female athletes in the Kingdom.”

Prince Khaled sees the WFL as a pivotal initiative of the SFA and a major driver behind the realization of the Vision 2030 reform plan, which strives for a healthier and more active society.

SFA Managing Director Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini believes that the WFL will significantly improve the visibility of women in sports and prioritize their fitness, health and wellness.

Some of the women at the launch event. (AN Photo/Bashir Saleh)

“Empowering women comes through positive and proactive programs like the WFL that have been conceptualized to continue to have a lasting impact on health, fitness and wellbeing,” she said.

“The SFA, committed to putting women at the forefront of our mission to grow Saudi Arabia’s healthy and active community, continues to engage public and private sector stakeholders to realize this aim together.”

She said this is a qualitative shift in women’s sports in the Kingdom. Spearheaded by Sara Al-Jawini, the SFA’s director of sports development, the federation “studied all aspects of the new league, conducting continuous workshops to ensure the wider WFL infrastructure and lasting impact metrics,” Al-Husseini added. 

Some of the women at the launch event. (AN Photo/Bashir Saleh)

The SFA has ensured that the football pitches are ready for the start of the WFL in March, with all-female organizational and technical teams in place to manage the various committees working toward delivering the league.

The WFL infrastructure teams will address and complete administrative requirements, refereeing, and technical and medical issues. 

Coaching and refereeing courses are planned to further develop the country’s infrastructure for women in sports.

The SFA’s investment in the WFL includes both women’s coaching and women’s refereeing training to fully flesh out the program’s potential and maintenance. 

At a later stage, the SFA and WFL will be communicating details on additional leagues and football events, as well as festivals targeting girls aged 16 and below.

These competitions, under the banner “Beyond Football,” will focus on building a strong base for future participation at the community level, beginning with girls aged 5.