Coronavirus: Here’s what’s happening in the sports world on Thursday

The latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting sports around the globe:

  • Tokyo Olympics could be downsized, simplified
  • Hockey Canada lifts ban on sanctioned activities
  • Rafael Nadal unsure about playing in 2020 U.S. Open
  • Toronto Wolfpack look to offer fans tracking bracelets to help contact tracing
  • U Sports athletes in limbo as pandemic threatens season
  • IOC seeks insurance compensation for delayed Olympics
  • Tottenham expecting big losses without fans, NFL games
  • 2 more Oklahoma State football players test positive
  • IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader on July 4 to be without spectators
  • NFL coaches allowed to return to team facilities on Friday
  • All referees in Italy’s top soccer league test negative

Postponed Olympics likely to look very different

The Japanese public is being prepared for the reality of next year’s postponed Olympics, where athletes are likely to face quarantines, spectators will be fewer, and the delay will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

In the last several weeks, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has given selected interviews outside Japan and hinted at empty stadiums, quarantines and virus testing.

The stark message about a very different, reduced Olympics is now being floated in Japan by politicians, and in unsourced news stories. The themes include the possibility of reduced seating at the Olympics — if any fans at all — tests for all athletes, fans and staff, and a quarantine-like situation at the Athletes Village.

In the hours before an online news conference on Thursday with Tokyo Olympics spokesman Masa Takaya, Japanese media published several versions of virtually the same story citing unnamed sources: Next year’s Olympics will be “downsized,” “simplified,” or “very different.”

Hockey Canada allowing members to decide on return

Hockey Canada has lifted its ban on sanctioned activities and is allowing the country’s 13 member organizations to individually determine when it’s safe to return to action.

The move is a first step toward resuming play after Hockey Canada cancelled all activities under its banner March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hockey Canada said in a statement the best approach for a resumption plan was for each member to work with regional public health authorities to determine the appropriate steps to return in areas that fall under their jurisdiction.

The sport’s national body said it expects the timing for a return to the ice will differ among its members. Certain regions of the country are further along with plans to reopen and roll back restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Hockey Canada’s 13 members are: BC Hockey, Hockey Alberta, Saskatchewan Hockey Association, Hockey Manitoba, Hockey Northwestern Ontario, Ontario Hockey Federation, Hockey Eastern Ontario, Hockey Quebec, Hockey New Brunswick, Hockey PEI, Hockey Nova Scotia, Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador, and Hockey North.

Nadal says he wouldn’t play in U.S. Open right now

Rafael Nadal says if he had to decide right now he wouldn’t play in the U.S. Open, but he wants to wait and see what happens with the coronavirus pandemic.

The 19-time Grand Slam champion thinks it’s important that there be two requirements for tennis to return: assuring everyone’s health and making sure players from all countries can travel.

All sanctioned tennis has been on hold since March. Nadal recently resumed practicing lightly. He is a 12-time champion at the French Open. That tournament should have been in Week 2 now but was postponed until September. The U.S. Open is scheduled to start in late August.

Toronto Wolfpack aiming to give tracking bracelets to fans

The Toronto Wolfpack are looking at providing fans with disposable tracking bracelets/wristbands during games to allow for contact-tracing in case of COVID-19 once the team returns to play.

The transatlantic rugby league team has struck a deal with TraceSafe Technologies to use its wearable tracking products and services “to help in safely re-opening Lamport Stadium for training, any games played behind closed doors, and games with fans during this time of social distancing.”

The Wolfpack say they are the first pro sports team in the world “to embrace the use of wearable tracking products and services for staff and fans.”

Still Wolfpack CEO Bob Hunter says the team is still in the “very very early stages” of the concept.

U Sports athletes in limbo as season approaches

Nearly 20,000 student athletes from 56 U Sports schools coast-to-coast-to-coast, are waiting to see how the current COVID-19 situation will impact their 2020-21 varsity season.

“It is worrying not knowing if it’s going to happen because I’ve been playing sports my entire life. It’s weird to think that I might not be able to,” said Leah Adams, a multi-sport athlete at CEC, who also found out this week that Soccer Nova Scotia cancelled its entire summer season.

“I’m just focusing on staying in shape and waiting to see what’s going to happen.”

Some answers are on the horizon as U Sports holds its annual general meeting (AGM) with all of its stakeholders, including the country’s four athletic conferences, on Thursday.

IOC seeks insurance compensation for delayed Olympics

The International Olympic Committee is in talks with insurers over being compensated for the postponed Tokyo Games.

An “open discussion” is under way with insurance brokers, the IOC’s Olympic Games operations director Pierre Ducrey said Thursday. The aim is “to try and find the right level of compensation to help us bear the cost of having to wait another year,” Ducrey said.

The IOC pays for insurance against the cancellation of an Olympics but it has been unclear if its policy covers the one-year postponement forced by the coronavirus pandemic.

Cancellation policies detailed in the IOC’s annual accounts cost $14.4 million for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and $12.8 million for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

The IOC said last month it set aside $650 million to cover its own potential extra costs for the postponement.

Costs for organizers in Japan are expected to reach billions of dollars, with most of the bill paid for by taxpayers.

Tottenham expecting big financial losses without fans, NFL

English soccer club Tottenham says it is expecting to lose more than $250 million in revenue with Premier League matches being played without fans and its stadium no longer being used for two NFL games this year.

Tottenham’s stadium opened last year and can hold more than 60,000 people. It is unclear when spectators will be allowed into events again.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy says “it is imperative that we now all work together … to find a safe way to bring spectators back to sport and entertainment venues.”

2 more OSU football players test positive

Two more Oklahoma State football players have tested positive for COVID-19 since returning to campus for voluntary workouts.

This week, Canadian linebacker Canadian Amen Ogbongbemiga (AY-men awg-BONG-beh-MEE-guh), tweeted he tested positive. The other two players weren’t identified.

IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader to be held without fans

Indianapolis Motor Speedway will hold the July 4 IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader without fans.

Track officials had been optimistic it could be the first major sporting venue to have fans back in the stands this summer. Instead, the stands will be empty much like the rest of the tracks since major racing resumed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic last month.

IMS officials made the decision after consulting with local and state officials.

“While we certainly worked diligently to run our events with spectators, we reached a point where we needed to make a final decision because the race weekend is less than a month away,” said Mark Miles, who oversees the IndyCar Series as president of Penske Entertainment Corp.

NFL coaches returning to team facilities

Coaches will be allowed to return to NFL team facilities beginning Friday as the league continues preparation for training camps and its season.

Commissioner Roger Goodell told the 32 clubs on Thursday that coaching staffs may from team complexes starting Friday. Previously, only up to 75 people per day could be at the facilities, with coaches and healthy players barred.

“As has been emphasized in previous advice on reopening facilities, this may occur only if your club has otherwise received necessary permission from state and local governments to reopen its facility,” Goodell wrote.

All coaches will count toward the maximum number of club employees in the facility, but that number will be increased to 100 — also subject to governmental regulations and implementation of health protocols developed by the NFL’s medical staff.

All referees in Serie A test negative

All referees in Italy’s top soccer league have tested negative for the novel coronavirus. The Serie A officials and some from the second division were tested at the federation’s training headquarters on the outskirts of Florence.

They’ll remain there until June 10th to have more tests and continue training for the season start June 20th.

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