AS a result of the rapid spread of Covid-19, a whole host of sporting events have already been cancelled across the globe and more are sure to follow. There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth, especially over the possible loss of money which organisers and participants face, not to mention the upset caused to millions of sports fans.

Yet there will be many millions of other people who will welcome the cancellations and postponements as the world faces a genuine global health crisis – and why should sport be exempt from restrictions as the UK Government seems to be indicating? There is now also considerable disagreement between the medical experts and politicians of various countries as to what events can continue and which must be cancelled or postponed.


IRELAND v Italy and Italy v England in the Six Nations; most sport in Italy; football matches across Asia and Europe; the F1 Chinese Grand Prix; the Women’s World Golf Championship in Singapore and the men’s Kenya Open; the World Indoor Athletics Championship in China; and pre-Olympic qualifying tournaments in various sports.

Horse racing in Japan will be run without spectators and the same applies to the big spring Sumo tournament. Snooker’s China Open has been cancelled; Hong Kong and Singapore rugby Sevens postponed; and even the Beach Volleyball World Cup in Yangzhou, China, was postponed.

The biggest events under threat are the Tokyo Olympics, the Euro 2020 football championships, and next month’s London Marathon.


SPORTS events have been cancelled or postponed many times. Anyone who follows horse racing, for example, will know meetings are cancelled for numerous reasons – the entire Cheltenham Festival in 2001 was lost to foot-and-mouth disease.

Bearing in mind that mass spectatorship at sports is a relatively recent phenomenon – it mostly began in the Victorian era if you discount the Ancient Greek Olympiads and Roman circuses – there have actually been relatively few cancellations of major sports events and certainly nothing of the scale we are seeing just now.

This in part is due to the vastly increased popularity of sport and also due to previous “the show must go on” attitudes.


IN baseball, the 1919 World Series was cancelled after five matches due to the Spanish Flu pandemic. So, too, was that year’s ice hockey Stanley Cup Final which was originally postponed but then cancelled after Montreal Canadiens defender Joe Hall died of the flu.

Although most international sport was cancelled during both World Wars, professional football continued to be played. The British Government thought it good for civilian morale.

It is often thought the 1940 Olympic Games scheduled for Tokyo were cancelled because of the outbreak of the Second World War. That is not the case – the Japanese called them off as early as 1938 because the country was at war with China.

Apartheid in South Africa caused many cancellations as country after country severed sporting links with that nation. The Commonwealth Games in 1986 in Edinburgh were badly affected by the issue but went ahead anyway. Also affected by boycotts were the 1980 and 1984 Olympics in a tit-for-tat USSR v USA spat.

The assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963 caused many cancellations of US sporting events but, to the horror of many Americans, the National Football League decided that games should go ahead just two days after the events in Dallas.

In more recent times, game three of baseball’s 1989 World Series had to be postponed because of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Live on television, team members from the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants were warming up for the match in Candlestick Park in San Francisco when the magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the area, killing 63 people.

The death of Princess Diana in 1997 saw many postponements, but the Scottish Football Association’s chief executive, the late Jim Farry, insisted Scotland’s game against Belarus would go ahead on the day of her funeral. He was eventually persuaded to change his mind and the game was played a day later.


ALMOST certainly the Ryder Cup of 2001. American sport was devastated by the horrors of 9/11, with baseball, National Football League and Major League Soccer all badly affected – the latter’s season was cut short.

The World Golf Championships were cancelled but it was the Ryder Cup, due to be played at the Belfry course in England, which was the centre of attention when it was postponed for a year. Europe won the rearranged match and the Ryder Cup has been played in even-numbered years ever since.


LAST year’s Rugby World Cup saw three matches cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis. The Japan v Scotland match was under threat, causing the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) to seek legal advice.

It was a move that resulted in the SRU being fined a “donation” of £70,000 for remarks made by its chief executive, Mark Dodson.

At the time of writing, Scotland v France will go ahead tomorrow so we have the ludicrous situation where places in France are in lockdown but thousands of French rugby fans are heading for Murrayfield. Go figure.