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Asian Games in China postponed due to pandemic: source

People wearing face masks line up for COVID-19 tests on the third consecutive day of mass coronavirus testing in Beijing, on May 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

GENEVA (Kyodo) -- The Asian Games originally scheduled for September in Hangzhou, China, will be pushed back due to coronavirus outbreaks around the host country, organizers said Friday.

    Around 10,000 athletes were expected to compete across 40 sports and 61 disciplines in the Sept. 10-25 quadrennial event, but concerns about health and safety were raised in light of Shanghai's weeks-long COVID lockdown dragging on.

    The decision was made at the Olympic Council of Asia executive board meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, with the new dates likely to be in 2023, a source familiar with the matter said.

    "(The organizing committee) has been very well prepared to deliver the games on time despite global challenges," the OCA said in a statement. "However, the above decision was taken by all the stakeholders after carefully considering the pandemic situation and the size of the games."

    In the same statement the OCA said the Asian Youth Games will no longer be held Dec. 20-28 in Shantou, China.

    Reports last month raised the possibility of the postponement of the Asian Games, which are second only to the Summer Olympics in terms of size.

    Last summer's Tokyo Olympics were pushed back a year from their original 2020 timetable because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    In addition to the 19th Asian Games, several other events in China, including the World University Games, which were due to start in Chengdu in late June, have already been delayed as the country battles its latest COVID-19 crisis.

    With the Omicron variant having spread rapidly, mainland China is facing its biggest COVID-19 wave since the height of the pandemic in 2020.

    Hangzhou, less than 200 kilometers from Shanghai, was poised to become the third Chinese city to host the Asian Games, following Beijing in 1990 and Guangzhou in 2010. The 2026 Asian Games will be co-hosted by Japan's Aichi prefecture and its capital city Nagoya.

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