• Organizers of international events across Asia reviewing calendars over coronavirus outbreak
  • Many events have been scrapped and some postponed while yet others have been scaled back
  • Feb. 24-27 World Mobile Congress in Barcelona was canceled after major players pulled out

A pall of uncertainty has descended on several major events coming up across Asia amid fears of a pandemic of new coronavirus infections. Organizers of major events are in a tizzy about making a decision as the epidemic that originated in China’s industrial hub of Wuhan shows no sign of subsiding.

The virus, which WHO calls Covid-19, has so far claimed about 1,300 lives and infected more than 60,000 people, mostly in Mainland China.

The organizers are struggling to decide whether to cancel, postpone or go ahead with the same format or with a scaled-back in defense to the situation. While many events can be rescheduled for the latter half of the year, some would have to be canceled.

The first major casualty has been the annual World Mobile Congress (WMC) in Barcelona from Feb. 24-27 that stands canceled after major players like Facebook and LG announced withdrawal over virus fears.

A Situation Of Fear And Panic

In Shanghai, about 800km (approx. 500 miles) from the epicenter of the virus outbreak Wuhan, the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix event scheduled for April 19 has been postponed.

The virus is threatening almost every major event in Asia, from art shows to golf tournaments. While any major event is likely to take place inside China, given the current situation of fear and panic, even its neighbors are reviewing the events.

The Singapore Airshow has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak in China, with dozens of participants pulling out
The Singapore Airshow has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak in China, with dozens of participants pulling out AFP / ROSLAN RAHMAN

The annual Art Basel Hong Kong 2020, one of Asia’s most prestigious art fairs planned for March 19-21, has been canceled. In neighboring Thailand, the organizers have canceled the 2020 Honda LGPA Thailand in the resort city of Pattaya. In Singapore, The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) canceled the 2020 HSBC Women’s World Championship.

Hong Kong has reported one death and 49 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus infection while the number of infections in Singapore has reached 47, and in Thailand 33.

MICE Segment Affected

Stuart Bailey, the chairman of the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association, told CNBC that the Hong Kong government has postponed all MICE events. MICE refers to the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions industry. “If the events need to be held in the summer months ... July and August, maybe this is one of those years — you just do your best and muddle through.”

The Singapore Airshow that began on Feb. 11 was one of the first major casualties outside China when Asia’s largest aerospace and defense event, suffered as 70 exhibitors pulled out. The notable absentees from this year’s show are American aerospace and defense giant Lockheed Martin and Canadian business jet maker Bombardier.

Several sports events are also affected by the virus outbreak. While World Athletics Indoor Championship scheduled for March 13-15 in Nanjing, China, has been postponed to 2021, the Asian Athletics Association canceled the indoors championship scheduled for Feb. 12-13 in Hangzhou. Several international soccer matches across Asia have been either postponed or canceled. The all-electric Formula E motor racing series has scrapped the March 21 event in Sanya in China. Several international events in Badminton, field hockey, boxing and, basketball have also been postponed.