BEIJING (AP) — China's government on Tuesday ordered all major sports events to remain suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak, meaning the country's basketball league will have to push back its planned restart.
The CBA had hoped to resume play in mid-April but was denied government approval to do so. Instead, China’s General Administration of Sport issued a statement saying any large sporting events that draw crowds “are temporarily not being resumed.”
The agency did not give a timeline for when the suspensions may be lifted, but said it will “make timely adjustments according to the epidemic prevention and control situation."
The CBA has been suspended since Jan. 24 because of the spread of COVID-19.
The league is reportedly considering a proposal to bring all 20 teams to one or two cities and play the remainder of the regular season in empty arenas. All teams have 16 regular-season games left on their schedules.
The southern city of Dongguan and coastal city of Qingdao have both been discussed as possible locations for the games, which would take place in a strictly controlled environment under the supervision of health professionals.
In anticipation of a possible restart, teams have already started recalling foreign players, including Jeremy Lin, who has been under a mandatory 14-day quarantine since returning to Beijing on March 19.
The CBA was previously under pressure to restart and finish the season before the Chinese national team was scheduled to participate in an Olympic qualifying tournament starting June 23. However, the decision last week to postpone the Tokyo Olympics until next year gives the league more leeway.
But the CBA's handling of the situation will be of great interest to other sports leagues around the world — including the NBA — who are currently suspended and figuring out how best to proceed in a safe way during the pandemic.
China has lifted some of the controls that locked downs tens of millions of people for two months as it tries to revive the world's second-largest economy after declaring victory over the outbreak.
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