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Skiing finals, Italian cycling races canceled due to virus

MILAN – The alpine skiing World Cup Finals and major Italian cycling races were among the latest sporting events to be canceled on Friday because of the escalating virus outbreak.

Also, an unnamed Scotland Women's rugby player tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday and the Women's Six Nations match between Scotland and France on Saturday in Glasgow was postponed. The player was admitted to a health care facility and was otherwise well, the Scottish Rugby Union said in a statement.

The skiing finals in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, scheduled from March 18-22, were called off after an emergency International Ski Federation board meeting.

“It’s with great disappointment that I accept this decision,” Italian Winter Sports Federation president Flavio Roda said. “Every member of the board made their decision based on limitations that their respective governments have imposed in relation to the virus.”

RCS Sport, which organizes cycling events in Italy, canceled the Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo races as well as the Giro di Sicilia, all scheduled within the next four weeks.

On Thursday, the Strade Bianche men's and women's cycling races were canceled.

“RCS Sport will request the UCI, via the Italian Cycling Federation, to allocate new dates on the international cycling calendar for the three races, as has already been requested for Strade Bianche and Strade Bianche Women Elite,” RCS said in a statement.

The Italian government issued a decree on Wednesday that all sporting events in the country must take place without spectators until April 3. That includes Serie A soccer.

Italy Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora wrote to the country's soccer federation requesting all games this weekend be broadcast on free TV “considering the serious inconvenience affecting the population in this difficult time."

A statement from Spadafora said he was still awaiting a response from Sky Italia, the satellite platform that shows most of the games domestically, and the Italian league.

The Scotland Women's rugby team returned from northern Italy on Feb. 23 after its match against Italy Women was postponed. The Scottish Rugby Union said aside from the player who was being treated at a clinic, seven other players and management staff were self-isolating on medical advice.

“We are pleased that our player is doing well and that all the correct medical procedures have been followed and continue to be followed," Scottish rugby chief medical officer James Robson said.

Four Women's Six Nations have been postponed. The men's Scotland-France match on Sunday at Murrayfield is going ahead as scheduled.

Late Friday, the French soccer league announced the postponement of Saturday's home game between Strasbourg and league leader Paris Saint-Germain following a decree from the Alsace city's prefecture.

The Tirreno-Adriatico stage race has been held every year since 1966, while the Milan-San Remo one-day classic, which dates to 1907, had been stopped previously only in wartime. The Giro di Sicilia was due to take place from April 1-4.

The canceled races will have implications for riders' preparations for the grand tours — the Giro d'Italia from May 9-31 and the Tour de France from June 27-July 19. The Tour is starting a week earlier to avoid conflict with the Tokyo Olympics.

Italy is the epicenter of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak. More than 150 people have died and more than 3,000 have been infected, mainly in the northern part of the country.

Spain-based cycling team Movistar led by Alejandro Valverde on Friday became the seventh team to suspend racing this month, including withdrawing from the Paris-Nice starting on Sunday.

In rugby, the governing body of the sport in Italy said it has suspended all activity, including training. It's last two Six Nations matches against Ireland and England have already been postponed, and the women's team has had its last three matches postponed.

Also, Danish soccer club Copenhagen said all of its games in March would be played without fans. The decision followed Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen saying events with crowds of more than 1,000 should be canceled or postponed because of the virus.

Copenhagen said its Danish league games and the Europa League match against Istanbul Basaksehir on March 19 would be affected. Copenhagen said it had no information about its return game in Istanbul.

Two other Danish soccer teams, FC Midtjylland and Aarhus, have halted all physical interviews with players, coaches and other employees. Instead, any interviews will be done by telephone. Interview opportunities with the media following matches will still be possible but will be reduced to a few minutes and with a safety distance of two meters (yards) between the player and the interviewer.

No one with the clubs has tested positive, but former Denmark player Thomas Kahlenberg was in quarantine. Kahlenberg, who represented Denmark at the 2010 World Cup, attended a Danish league match on Sunday between Brondby and Lyngby. Several people related to those clubs have been quarantined as a precaution.

News conferences and media opportunities following soccer matches in Italy have also been scrapped, though TV broadcasters should still be allowed to carry out interviews under certain conditions.

In France, the roof at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy will remain open even if it rains when Lille hosts Lyon in a league match on Sunday.

“We will have to have the roof open with regards to the spreading of the virus,” Lille coach Christophe Galtier said. "We have to abide by this decision.”

The French soccer league also has measures in place to help contain the virus, such as no handshakes and other modified protocol.

The coronavirus reached 577 cases in France by Friday, with nine deaths, the country's health ministry said.

The Asian weightlifting championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, scheduled for April 16-25, were also called off. The championships were also doubling as an Olympic qualifier. They were originally scheduled to be staged in Kazakhstan but were moved because of the virus.

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