China has given up its rights to host next year’s AFC Asian Cup, citing the pandemic, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said on Saturday.
The move will come as a blow to global sporting bodies hoping that sports would return to China next year, after the country once again pulled its international sporting events from the calendar this year.
The quadrennial 24-team tournament was due to be hosted from June 16 to July 16 next year across 10 different Chinese cities.
“The Asian Football Confederation has been officially informed by the CFA (Chinese Football Association) that it would not be able to host the AFC Asian Cup 2023,” the confederation said in a statement.
“The AFC acknowledges the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the relinquishment by China PR of its hosting rights.”
Currently, domestic sports leagues have been confined to COVID bubbles as the authorities try to mitigate the risk of COVID from domestic travel.
The Asian Cup includes 24 national teams playing 51 games over a month. Due to China’s commitment to COVID-bubbles, as we saw at the Olympics, it would have been logistically impossible for one or two cities to host that many games.
In preparation for the tournament, China had been renovating or building brand new stadiums across the country, including Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium. While Workers’ Stadium will see plenty of action as the host site for Beijing Guoan games, the fate of other stadiums aren’t so certain:
Now that China is no longer hosting the 2023 Asia Cup, here’s an overview of all the ten spectacular, newly-built stadiums where the event is NOT going to take place: https://t.co/bn84A3pu5I pic.twitter.com/iImR79Htl8
— Manya Koetse (@manyapan) May 15, 2022
China’s late decision to withdraw from hosting the Asian Cup has left the AFC a year to find a new host (speculation is that it could head west). The last-minute decision could hurt China’s reputation regarding its reliability as a host for major sporting events, and could damage any future bids for World Cup hosting rights, a longstanding ambition for President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平.
China and South Korea turn in a Uber Cup classic
South Korea came from behind against favorites China to claim an exciting victory in the final of the Uber Cup, badminton’s premier women’s team tournament.
China, the 15-time champions, started strong after Olympic champion Chén Yǔfēi 陈雨菲 got the opening victory against An Se-young in a breathless 90-minute match. (Watch the full finals here.) An, who has never beaten Chen, won the first game 21-17 before dropping the next two, 21-15 and 22-20.
South Korea then pulled back a result after China’s Olympic silver medalist pair of Jiǎ Yīfán 贾一凡 and Chén Qīngchén 陈清晨 fell in another nail-biter to Lee So-hee and Rio 2016 bronze medalist Shin Seung-chan. The Chinese duo went up 21-12 before losing the next two games 21-18, 21-18.
In the third match, the momentum swung back in China’s favor after Hé Bīngjiāo 何冰娇 swept Kim Ga-eun 21-12 and 21-13. The win put China just one victory away from taking home consecutive golds. However, the Korean pair of Kim Hye-jeong and Kong Hee-yong were able to take the next match in two close games, defeating China’s Huáng Dōngpíng 黄东萍 and Lǐ Wènmèi 李汶妹 22-20 and 21-17.
The decider between Sin Yu-jin and Wáng Zhǐyí 王祉怡 started with the Korean winning an arduous 28-26 opening game, before China’s Wang came back to win the second game 21-18. Sim dominated the final game, winning 21-8, to give Korea its second-ever Uber Cup title.
Meanwhile, in the men’s Thomas Cup, China slipped to a 3-0 quarterfinal exit against a strong Indonesian team.
China’s Iron Lady of diving apologies for abusing Olympic judge (CNN)
Figure skating Grand Prix will not visit China next season (NBC Sports)
CSL start date elusive but preseason in full swing – in hotel quarantine (SCMP)
The China Sports Column runs every week.