COVID causes blanket postponement of top-tier sporting events in China

Society & Culture

Meanwhile: Mercedes F1 boss wants three Chinese races in the future.

China’s self-imposed isolation from international sports will continue for at least another year.

The highest-profile casualties are the Asian Games in September and the World University Games in May, both of which have been postponed until 2023. The Asian Youth Games, set for a December date, has been canceled outright.

Organizers have all cited the recent flare-ups of COVID as the reason.

Just two weeks ago, people within the Chinese Olympic Committee were feeling bullish about the prospects for the Asian Games in six months. However, clearly the thinking changed, especially with Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 set to confirm his unprecedented third term as president of the country in the fall and with authorities on high alert for any signs of instability.

The World University Games, which has now been postponed for the second time, was already looking diminished before this announcement, after university sports bodies from the UK, U.S., Canada, and Australia pulled their athletes from the competition, citing the immense mental health impacts of China’s planned COVID bubble.

Although the country managed to hold the Winter Olympics inside three bubbles, China has become totally cut off from hosting international sports.

Aside from the major multi-sport events, organizers of the track-and-field Diamond League and the World Triathlon also announced last week that their events in China have been moved.

At the moment, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel for Chinese sports. Next year may be the year, but that’s what people were saying this time last year.


Mercedes F1 boss wants three Chinese races

Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff said he would like to see three races in China in the future.

Following F1’s growth in the last few years and the planned three races scheduled for the U.S. next season, Wolff has stated that he would like to see China host two more races in addition to the current Shanghai GP.

“I’d like to not only race in Shanghai, I’d also like to race in Beijing,” Wolff told Xinhua in an interview. “It’s a fantastic market for us as Mercedes, and I believe we should be embedded there with a strong footprint. We have three races in the U.S. now, Las Vegas, Miami, and Austin, and if we can do the same thing in China, that would be great.”

It is also understood that F1’s owners, Liberty Media, are also eager to explore the possibility of multiple Chinese races.

While the classic “race on Sunday, sell on Monday” model hasn’t always been true for the Chinese motorsports market — which has remained relatively niche within the confines of the Shanghai international circuit — there is an impetus for F1 to capitalize on the current momentum of the sport.

One major factor is the success of Zhōu Guānyǔ 周冠宇, China’s first F1 driver. Despite lagging behind his more experienced teammate Valtteri Bottas, rookie Zhou has made a promising start to his F1 career, scoring points on his debut.

This past weekend saw the debut of the Miami Grand Prix as F1 continues to try to grow its presence in the U.S. Miami’s street circuit has been a model that Liberty media has been keen to pursue to improve the accessibility of the racing to a new audience. This is a model that could be chosen for any future Chinese Grand Prix.

Beijing specifically has experience hosting top-level street racing after it converted parts of Olympic Park into a track for Formula E in 2014 and 2015. However, a future F1 circuit in the city would require far more significant infrastructure (and policy) changes.

Of course, all these future plans rely on China opening up to future international sporting events, something that looks further away than Mercedes’s current F1 title chances.


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Ronnie O’Sullivan suggests snooker World Championships could move to China (Daily Express)

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