India Open to go ahead without spectators due to coronavirus outbreak

PV Sindhu in action. EPA/YOAN VALAT

The India Open, a crucial event for Tokyo Olympic qualification, will be held without any spectators due to the global novel coronavirus outbreak, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) said on Wednesday.

The Super 500 tournament was under threat in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, BAI and the Badminton World Federation (BWF) issued a joint statement, saying the event will go ahead as originally planned. "Enhanced precautionary measures will be in place to ensure the welfare and safety of players, their entourage and officials," the statement said.

One of the precautions taken by the organisers is to restrict the entry of people inside the stadium.

"The India Open will be held as planned at the KD Jadhav stadium in Indira Gandhi Indoor stadium but to ensure safety of everybody we have decided not to allow any spectator this time," BAI General Secretary, Ajay K Singhania told PTI. "Fans can watch the matches on YouTube for the initial days while Hotstar will show the matches from quarterfinal onwards."

Earlier, the BAI had written to the BWF expressing concern over the coronavirus outbreak and asking for the tournament to be postponed.

The top foreign players expected to take part in the tournament are Viktor Axelsen, Shi Yuqi, Carolina Marin, Chen Yufei, Akane Yamaguchi and He Bingjiao, among others.

The tournament falls within the Tokyo 2020 qualification period, which ends on April 26. After India Open, the Malaysia Open (March 31-April 5) and Singapore Open (April 7-12) are the only two major events which fall inside the April 28 deadline for Olympic qualification.

The cornavirus outbreak has already forced the postponement of four Olympic qualifying badminton events so far -- Lingshui China Masters (February 25 to March 1), Vietnam International Challenge (March 24-29), German Open (March 3 to 8) and Polish Open (March 26-29).

Given the health hazard, the Indian government has suspended all regular visas/e-visas granted on or before March 3 to the nationals of Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan who have not yet entered India. The government has also made a 14-day quarantine mandatory for the people coming from Republic of Korea, Iran and Italy to India.