Another major world sports event has been disrupted by the coronavirus. This time, it’s the Tour de France.
The Tour had thus far avoided postponing, but organizers said on Tuesday that the race could not start on time in Nice on June 27 after President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that public events would be banned through the middle of July.
The Tour was scheduled to run for three weeks and end on the Champs-Élysées on July 19. This year’s race was to be heavy on climbing, including a visit to the top of the Grand Colombier in the Alps, and light on time trials.
Tour organizers are no doubt hoping for only a brief delay. The schedule immediately after the Tour has opened up some because of the postponement of the Olympics, where the cycling road race was to have been held July 25, about a week after the Tour ended.
But if the Tour is delayed much longer, it could bump into the Vuelta a España, scheduled for Aug. 14 to Sept. 6, and the world championships, at the end of September. The first of the three grand tours, the Giro d’Italia, has already been postponed from May and is also looking for a new date. With each Tour normally filling three weeks, the calendar is tight.
Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour, expressed confidence in March that the race would go on, saying, “Only two world wars were able to stop the Tour de France.” Covid-19 has now done the same.
Table Tennis, Anyone?
Tuesday’s sports schedule included three soccer games, all friendlies in Sweden, a dozen hockey games in Russia and … more than 250 table tennis matches.
Maybe it’s the social distancing between players that the table provides. Maybe it’s … well, that’s all we can think of. But in any case, Russia, Ukraine and the Czech Republic are packing in table tennis matches, running them virtually all day long.
Perhaps some Eastern European Ping-Pong enthusiasts are excited about these games, but they could hardly be crossing over to mainstream sports fans. Or could they?
At least one group of fans is following table tennis avidly: Of course, that’s gamblers. “Table tennis is the No. 1 draw by a country mile,” the William Hill sportsbook director, Nick Bogdanovich, told The Las Vegas Review Journal. “There’s 90 matches a day, so it adds up.”
A Review Journal reporter stayed up late betting the action and actually made a few bucks. His secret: Take the underdog.
New on the abbreviated world sports schedule on Tuesday, for some reason, was badminton from Armenia.
Halted Play in Burundi, India and France
Burundi has stuck out as one of the few countries in the world, and the only one in Africa, to continue with soccer. It too has now halted play.
Curiously, the stated reason had nothing to do with the coronavirus. The president of the soccer federation said it was because stadiums would be needed for election rallies.
Formula One continues to rip the Band-Aid off slowly rather than all at once, canceling its races one by one. The latest to go is the French Grand Prix on June 28. That’s 10 races that have been canceled or postponed indefinitely; 12 remain on the schedule for now.
You know India is taking the coronavirus seriously. Not because the lockdown of more than a billion people has been extended to May 3, but because the Indian Premier League, the enormously popular cricket competition, has been postponed indefinitely. Field hockey, another popular sport in India, has also been shut down.
N.F.L. Allows Virtual Workouts
The N.F.L. and its union agreed on Monday to allow teams to conduct virtual workouts until team facilities were allowed to reopen.
The virtual off-season will begin on April 20 for teams with new coaches and April 27 for the rest of the league. It will conclude on May 15. Teams will be allowed to hold workouts, classroom instruction and nonfootball educational programs. All activities will be voluntary, and teams are allowed to give players up to $1,500 worth of equipment.
“We’ll do the Zoom meetings when we’re allowed to and do all the tele-coaching that we can come up with,” Arizona Cardinals Coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Everyone is dealing with it, so the teams that are able to adjust and adapt the best are going to have the most success early in the season.”
Teams typically begin off-season programs in mid-April. Rookie minicamps are usually scheduled for May, followed by organized team activities and mandatory minicamps.
It is not known yet if the pandemic will have an impact on training camps, scheduled to begin in July, or the regular season, which starts in September. A virtual version of the N.F.L. draft will be held next week. DANIELLE ALLENTUCK