SEOUL, May 6 (Bernama) — Asia’s top sports body announced Friday the 19th Asian Games, scheduled to take place in the Chinese city of Hangzhou from Sept. 10 to 25 this year, have been postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Yonhap news agency, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) in a statement released on its website said its executive board reached the decision following discussions with Hangzhou’s organising committee and the Chinese Olympic Committee. The new schedule for the continental competition will be announced “in the near future,” the OCA added.
“(The organising committee) has been very well prepared to deliver the (Asian) Games on time despite global challenges. However, the above decision was taken by all the stakeholders after carefully considering the pandemic situation and the size of the Games,” the OCA statement read.
“The name and the emblem of the 19th Asian Games will remain unchanged, and the OCA believes that the Games will achieve complete success through the joint efforts of all parties.”
China has been battling a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Hangzhou lies about 200 kilometres southwest of Shanghai, which has been in lockdown for weeks as part of China’s zero-tolerance policy on COVID-19.
The Asian Games are one of the world’s largest multisport events, rivaling the Summer Olympics. The most recent Summer Asiad, held in Jakarta and Palembang in Indonesia in 2018, had 11,300 athletes from 45 countries vying for 465 gold medals in 40 sports.
The Tokyo Summer Olympics last year featured just over 11,600 athletes from 206 nations, competing for 339 gold medals in 33 sports.
The OCA’s decision comes less than three months after Beijing hosted the Winter Olympics with a “closed-loop system,” or a biosecure bubble, set up for all participating athletes, staff, volunteers and media.
They were required to undergo daily COVID-19 tests and were prohibited from coming in contact with the general public, Yonhap reported.
Organisers in Hangzhou said at the end of March that construction for all 56 competition venues for the Asian Games and Para Asian Games had all been completed. They also indicated then they would take cues from Beijing to devise their virus control plan for the Asian Games.
South Korea, alongside China and Japan, has been part of the “Big Three” of the Asian Games. Those three countries have finished in the top three in the medal race at every Summer Asiad since the 1978 competition in Bangkok.