Asian Games 2022 due to take place in the Chinese city of Hangzhou in September have been postponed indefinitely because of Covid-19, organisers said on Friday.
The games were supposed to be held from 10 to 25 September but have now been delayed as China seeks to stem a major resurgence of infections in various parts of the country.
Hangzhou, the country’s largest city, is less than 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Shanghai, which has endured a week-long lockdown as part of the ruling Communist Party’s zero-tolerance approach to the virus.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) said in a statement that the decision to suspend was “taken by all stakeholders after considering the epidemic situation and the size of the game”.
The new dates for the games, which typically attract more than 10,000 athletes across the region, will be announced “in the near future,” the statement said.
Organizers said last month that Hangzhou, a city of 12 million people in eastern China, had completed the construction of about 56 competition venues for the Asian Games and the Asian Para Games.
At the time, they indicated that they planned to hold the event under a virus control plan that “learns from the successful experience” of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which took place in February in a strictly covid-protected bubble.
Hangzhou was the third city in China to host the continental competition after Beijing in 1990 and Guangzhou in 2010.
Some events were supposed to take place in other provincial cities, including Ningbo, Wenzhou, Huzhou, Shaoxing and Xinhua.
The OCA also said that the Asian Youth Games, scheduled to be held in December in the Chinese city of Shantou, would be postponed once and for all.
The World University Games, which are set to begin in Chengdu next month and have already been delayed since last year, are also expected to be postponed.
Almost all international games have stopped in China since the arrival of Kovid in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
The Beijing Olympics was an exception, but it was held in a strict “closed loop” with athletes, staff, volunteers, and everyone inside the media. .
China has stubbornly stuck to the zero-covid policy, imposed strict lockdowns, quarantine and mass testing programs and even reopened other countries as a threat of epidemic reduction.
The government has claimed the strategy as evidence that it values human life above material concerns and could avoid the public health crisis seen in many Western countries.
Top Chinese leaders on Thursday again vowed to “firmly adhere” to Zero-Kovid and “fight hard” against policy criticism, despite growing public outcry over the move.
Anger has been directed specifically at Shanghai, where 25 million people have been injured under the lockdown patchwork since March amid allegations of excessive lockdown measures and Spartan quarantine conditions.