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Women’s Olympic football qualifiers moved from China virus epicentre


Beijing (AFP) – Women’s football qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be moved from the Chinese city at the centre of a virus outbreak to another location in the country, the Asian Football Confederation said Wednesday.

Wuhan was supposed to host China, Taiwan, Thailand and Australia for the Group B qualifiers February 3-9, but they will now be held on the same dates in the eastern city of Nanjing, AFC said in a statement.

It said the change was proposed by the Chinese Football Association.

Boxing qualification bouts for the Olympics that were scheduled to take place next month in Wuhan will be relocated, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported Wednesday.

Citing organisers, Kyodo said the qualifiers would be rescheduled and moved from Wuhan.

There was no independent confirmation from the organisers, and Japan’s boxing federation said it was waiting to hear from the International Olympic Committee on the reported cancellation.

Nine people have died and at least 440 have been infected with the SARS-like coronavirus that has spread around China, with the vast majority of cases reported in Wuhan.

A seafood market that sold wild animals is suspected to be the source of the outbreak.

The coronavirus has caused alarm for its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Cases have also been reported outside China, in countries including the United States, South Korea, Japan and Thailand.

Even before the announcement about the postponement of the football qualifiers, Taiwan’s football association had warned it would withdraw from the matches if they were held in Wuhan, saying that “the safety of players is our top priority”.

The Kyodo report about the boxing bouts said the IOC was expected to announce a new host and schedule for the qualifiers.

Boxing has struggled in the run-up to the 2020 Games, and was almost excluded from the Olympic programme after a series of scandals.

The amateur boxing body AIBA was stripped of the right to organise the Olympic competition and replaced with a special taskforce.

Other measures have been introduced to rebuild trust in the sport, including a more transparent judging system.

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