Snooker has lost its flagship tournament in China due to the coronavirus crisis.
World Snooker Tour bosses decided on Friday to cancel the sport’s longest-established event in the country staged in Beijing on health grounds.
The China Open was to be held between March 30th and April 5th – as usual the final warm-up tournament before the World Championship in Sheffield.
The £1million event boasts a first prize of £225,000 and was won last year by Australia’s Neil Robertson.
Judd Trump, Mark Selby and Ding Junhui are other recent winners – and top players will now have at least four weeks to prepare for the Crucible after March’s Tour Championship in Llandudno.
At this stage there are no definite plans to re-run the China Open, although that could happen early next season or even take place under a different name.
Ivan Hirschowitz of World Snooker Tour said: “Following extensive consultation between WST, the WPBSA and our many partners in China, we have taken the difficult decision to postpone the 2020 China Open.
“This flagship China event had been scheduled for March 30 to April 5 in Beijing, however considering the current health and travel situation in China our highest priority has to be the welfare of our players, staff and the many fans who travel around China and beyond.
“Discussions with our partners in terms of staging this event at a later date are ongoing.
“In the meantime, our thoughts are with all of our many friends across China and in particular those affected by the coronavirus.”
A women’s LPGA golf event in China has already been cancelled, while women’s Olympics football qualifiers were moved from Wuhan to Australia.
The decision came as a flight carrying 83 airlifted Britons was due to arrive at RAF Brize Norton from Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak.
The respiratory ailment has already claimed over 200 lives in China, with almost 10,000 confirmed cases and 100,000 cases showing symptoms and under observation.
The World Health Organisation has declared the outbreak a global emergency with 98 cases confirmed in 18 other countries. There have been two confirmed cases in the UK.
British Airways suspended all flights to the China mainland after Foreign Office advice not to travel there unless absolutely essential. Virgin have now followed suit.
And a number of other international airlines have stopped flights to the stricken nation, which is hampering the evacuations under way.
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