(Reuters) - The coronavirus epidemic continued to wreak havoc on the international sporting calendar on Saturday when the Lingshui China Masters badminton tournament, part of the qualifying process for the Tokyo Olympics, was postponed.
Organizers made the decision to put off the event, which was scheduled to take place from Feb. 25 to March 1 in Hainan, after a number of players withdrew.
“The Badminton World Federation (BWF) and Chinese Badminton Association (CBA) can confirm the decision to postpone the Lingshui China Masters 2020 ... in the wake of growing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak in China and surrounding areas,” said a BWF statement.
“BWF and CBA have considered all necessary health, safety and logistical risks and both parties believe it is sensible to postpone the tournament at this time.”
The tournament was likely to be moved to a new date in May, the BWF added, but ranking points earned at the rescheduled event would no longer count towards Olympic qualification.
The number of deaths from the coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan in China’s Hubei Province, rose by 46 to 259 on Friday, the country’s health authority said on Saturday.
The BWF said it hoped the flagship Badminton Asia Championships (BAC) might still go ahead in Wuhan from April 21-26.
“It is ... too early at this time to make any final conclusions related to this event,” the statement added.
“The 2020 Badminton Asia Championships falls within the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games qualification window and is one of the last opportunities for athletes to qualify for the Olympics Games.”
The China Masters was the second event in Hainan to be affected by the epidemic this week after an elite women’s international golf tournament, the Blue Bay LPGA, was canceled on Friday.
The IAAF world indoor athletics championships, which were due to be held in Nanjing from March 13-15, have been postponed until next year.
Other Olympic qualifiers impacted include a four-team women’s soccer tournament involving China, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand, which was moved from Wuhan to Australia.
The schedule had to be further reshuffled when the China team were placed in quarantine in Brisbane by Australian authorities until after Feb. 5.
Qualifying tournaments in boxing and basketball for this year’s Olympics were also moved from China, while other events have been canceled or postponed.
The Tokyo Olympics take place in the Japanese capital from July 24 to Aug. 9.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Melbourne; Editing by Lincoln Feast.