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Outbreak leaves stadiums silent and arenas empty

Matches, events and leagues are also being postponed or relocated
Feb 28,2020
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A photo of an empty arena at Incheon Samsan World Gymnasium on Wednesday, where the Incheon ET Land Elephants and the Anyang KGC faced off. [YONHAP]
Arenas and stadiums are empty as fears related to the outbreak of coronavirus in the country continue.

It first started with the K League postponing the start of the 2020 K League 1 season, which was supposed to begin this weekend.

Four clubs were scheduled to play their group matches at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Champions League, but those matches have been postponed or relocated.

FC Seoul was set to take on Chiangrai United of Thailand, but the Thai team decided not to travel to Korea for their Group E match at Seoul World Cup Stadium on March 3, so the game has been postponed.

Ulsan Hyundai FC were also scheduled to host Perth Glory of Australia for their Group F match on March 4 at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium but instead will travel to Perth to play the first leg of the game on March 18 and hope to host the Australian side sometime in April.

Meanwhile, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Suwon Samsung Bluewings are yet to make an announcement on their upcoming scheduled home matches for April.

The KBO also announced on Thursday that it has decided to cancel exhibition games this year, which were scheduled to start on March 14. It marks the first time since the league was established in 1982 that such games have been canceled.

Regarding the start of the season, which is set to begin on March 28, the KBO is scheduled to have an emergency meeting on March 3 to make a decision on what action to take.

For sports that are already in season, like volleyball and basketball, they’ve decided to finish off the season by playing the remaining matches in empty arenas.

The Women’s Korean Basketball League (WKBL) and the Korean Volleyball Federation (KOVO) were the first to announce the decision to finish out the season behind closed doors. On Tuesday, the Korean Basketball League (KBL) also held an emergency board meeting and announced that they would also finish the season at empty stadiums. Each team has about 10 to 12 matches remaining in the regular season.

Empty stadiums are just one of the side effects of the coronavirus. The Busan KT Sonicboom’s foreign player Allen Durham decided to head back home to the United States on Wednesday, rather than to play the remaining matches, due to the outbreak. The Goyang Orions also lost one of their foreign players, Boris Savovic, after he chose to return to Serbia.

Local leagues aren’t the only ones with problems - so are international tournaments and events that are scheduled to be hosted in Korea.

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) announced on Tuesday that it has decided to postpone the World Team Table Tennis Championships, which were scheduled to be held from March 22 to 29 in Busan, to June 21 to 28.

The ITTF wrote in their announcement, “The ITTF places on record its thanks to the local organizing committee in Busan and the KTTA [Korea Table Tennis Association], led by president Ryu Seung-min, for their outstanding professionalism in dealing with this extraordinary situation. By continuing to work hard and in close cooperation with all stakeholders in Busan, the ITTF remains confident about putting on a great World Championships in June.”

The International Skating Union (ISU), too, decided to postpone the upcoming World Short Track Speed Skating Championships, indefinitely. It was originally scheduled to run from March 13 to 15 at Mokdong Ice Rink in western Seoul.

“Taking into account the uncertain world-wide developments of the coronavirus, the limited and uncertain available time slots during the coming weeks and the logistical challenges of potential organizers and participating teams, a postponement and/or relocation of this Championships might be considered if the circumstances would allow so in due time,” the ISU said in a statement. “Before taking a final decision, the ISU will remain in close contact with the Korea Skating Union and ISU Members.”

This decision was a particularly tough blow to short track speed skaters that had planned in competing as the championships are the last and most important tournament of the 2019-20 season, through which the overall world champion is determined.

BY KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]