The Olympic Council of Asia says the games have been delayed due to the spread of the Omicron variant as China scrambles to extinguish its biggest outbreak since the early days of the pandemic.
The Asian Games have been postponed indefinitely as host China battles a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) said on Friday that the games, scheduled for September, would be delayed due to concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant. China is racing to contain its biggest outbreak since the early days of the pandemic.
“The Olympic Council of Asia has announced that the XIX Asian Games, originally scheduled to be held in Hangzhou, China, from September 10 to 25, 2022, will be postponed,” said a statement on the official website.
The new dates for the sports event “will be announced at a later date,” he added.
The host city of Hangzhou is less than 200 km (120 miles) from the country’s largest city, Shanghai, which has endured a weeks-long lockdown as part of the ruling Communist Party’s zero-tolerance approach to the virus.
The OCA statement said local organizers were “very well prepared to deliver the games on time despite global challenges. However, the decision was made by all stakeholders after careful consideration of the pandemic situation and the size of the games.”
Organizers said last month that Hangzhou, a city of 12 million people in eastern China, had finished building 56 competition venues for the Asian Games and Asian Para Games.
At the time, they indicated that they planned to hold the events under a virus control plan that “learns from the successful experience” of the Beijing Winter Olympicswhich were held in February in a strict COVID-protected bubble.
Hangzhou was poised to become the third city in China to host the continental competition after Beijing in 1990 and Guangzhou in 2010.
Some events would be held in other provincial cities including Ningbo, Wenzhou, Huzhou, Shaoxing and Jinhua.
Almost all international sport has come to a halt in China since COVID emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
The Beijing Olympics was an exception, but was held on a strict “closed loop” with everyone inside, including athletes, staff, volunteers and media, taking daily COVID tests and not being allowed to venture out into the general public .
China has stubbornly adhered to a zero-COVID policy, imposing strict lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing programs, even as other countries begin to reopen as the threat of the pandemic recedes.
The government has touted the strategy as proof that it values human life above material concerns and can avert the public health crises seen in many Western countries.
Top leaders promised again on Thursday “unwaveringly adhere” to zero-COVID and “resolutely fighting” criticism of the policy despite growing public outcry against the measures.
The anger is especially noted in Shanghai, where 25 million people have thrashed under a patchwork of lockdowns since March amid complaints of overzealous lockdown measures and Spartan quarantine conditions.