Coronavirus makes spectator-free Champs a real possibility – JAAAs boss

By Sports Desk March 09, 2020
ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships

The ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships that is scheduled for the National Stadium from March 24-28 could be held without spectators.

That is according to Dr Warren Blake, President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA).

Blake, a medical practitioner since 1976, said that this could happen if the feared coronavirus that is sweeping the globe reaches Jamaica. He was asked about the likely impact of the virus on Champs and the upcoming Jamaica International Invitational Meet during an interview on live stream of the Carifta Trials on Sunday at the National Stadium.

“It (the coronavirus) is going to have a negative impact on events if/when it comes to Jamaica. If it comes before these events, the health authorities will have to sit down, look at the number of cases, where they are, and take the serious decision whether to allow a crowd like the size of Champs to come together, to put 35,000 people into our National Stadium when some of them might be infected,” Blake said.

He added that “This is really going to be a watch and see (situation). It could be possible that Champs could go ahead without spectators in the stands because of the danger of putting large crowds of people together.

“It’s hard to say what will happen but it (the assessment) has to be on a day-to-day basis. When it comes to a cut-off point then the hard decision will have to be made”.

Apart from the thousands of Jamaicans who flock to the stadium each year to watch the five-day spectacle unfold, a sizeable foreign media contingent religiously covers the event.

Blake also suggested that upcoming track and field events in the United States are likely to be affected in large part because of a “lack of testing” in that country which he asserted has caused the virus to now be “out of hand."

“They (the US authorities) are not calling it so, but I can tell you that the outbreak is now out-of-hand in America,” Blake insisted.

According to the JAAA boss, in New York, where a state of emergency was declared on Saturday, “400 doctors and nurses have placed themselves in self-isolation because they have come in contact with coronavirus cases."

“The maxim is that if you test, you’ll find them (coronavirus cases) and America has not been testing,” Blake stated.

The veteran medical doctor noted that it is estimated that if you have one untested individual carrying the virus, that person has the potential to infect over 3,000 new cases. “So I think that it’s really out-of-hand in America and it’s only a matter of time before it reaches Jamaica."

Regarding the Tokyo Olympics, which is scheduled to get underway in July and which is increasingly doubtful, Blake said he has been encouraging athletes to continue training.

He noted that if the event is cancelled, professional athletes would be hit hard.

“All the athletes I’ve spoken to have expressed concern because that’s how they earn their living. They’re professional athletes so they’re going all out to prepare themselves as if the Olympics is taking place and they’re concerned that their preparation might come to nought."

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    Donald Oliver is a football and cricket commentator and a senior producer at SportsMax. Learn more about him at or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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