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Sporting events feel the shivers as swine flu fears grow

By By Ossian Shine
April 29, 2009 16:49 IST
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A string of sports events were left feeling the shivers on Wednesday as the spectre of swine flu continued to spread fears globally, sparking a spate of cancellations and pull-outs.

Motor racing, soccer, golf and elite-level diving were all impacted by the growing fears surrounding the H1N1 virus.

Motor racing's A1 GP series cancelled its final race of the season in Mexico, at least 10 golfers withdrew from a Canadian Tour event in Mexico and teams of Chinese and Malaysian divers scrapped plans to compete in the United States.

On Tuesday the remainder of soccer's CONCACAF under-17 championship in Tijuana had been cancelled with Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and the US due to contest the semi-finals.

Governments around the world tested patients for the new H1N1 swine flu virus on Wednesday as the World Health Organization said the virus had officially been confirmed in Mexico, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Britain, Israel and Spain.

Mexico remained the only country with deaths -- 159 by the government's estimate -- and the epicentre of the outbreak.

RELUCTANT DECISION

A1 GP organisers said the decision to cancel its final race had been taken reluctantly.

"To say we are disappointed to have to make this call is an understatement," A1 GP chairman Tony Teixeira said in a statement.

"We must have the safety of all members of the A1 GP community, as well as the thousands of loyal fans in Mexico City as our prime concern."

The race had been scheduled for May 22-24 in Mexico City.

China's mighty diving squad, which won seven of the eight gold medals on offer at the Beijing Olympics last year, withdrew from the FINA Grand Prix in Fort Lauderdale next month.

The Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (ASUM) said it had consulted its National Sports Council (NSC) before deciding not to compete, Malaysia's Star newspaper reported on its website.

The decision means there will be no final tune-up for divers ahead of the World Championships in Rome in July.

Their move came just hours after golfers withdrew from the San Luis Potosi Open.

The Mexican event is part of the Canadian Tour -- part of the feeder system for the main U.S. PGA Tour. The La Loma Golf Club has been closed to the public and no fans or local caddies will attend.

"EVERY PRECAUTION"

"We are taking every precaution with our players at San Luis Potosi and will watch the situation closely," said commissioner Richard Janes on the Canadian Tour website (www.cantour.com).

Olympic Council of Malaysia Honorary Secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi said there was every possibility athletes would be withdrawn from Thailand's Martial Arts Games in June.

"We must give priority to the safety of our athletes because they are our country's asset," he told state news agency Bernama.

"For the time being, athletes should remain in the country as Malaysia is free from the swine flu," he added.

Chi said he wants the relevant sports bodies to check with the Health Ministry before sending any athletes to Thailand for the June 6-14 event, adding that if the condition in Thailand is reason for concern there is every possibility the Malaysian contingent might be withdrawn from Games.

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By Ossian Shine
Source: REUTERS
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