Coronavirus forces Tokyo baseball team to play in empty stadium

Tokyo Dome will be empty for games on Feb. 29 & March 1

TOKYO -- The Yomiuri Giants, Tokyo's baseball team,  will play two preseason games in an empty stadium, the latest impact on sports as Japan implements measures to contain the coronavirus just months before it hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics.

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The move comes a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration urged companies to recommend telecommuting and called on event organizers to reconsider their plans.

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Japan has at least 164 cases of infections from the flu-like coronavirus, apart from 691 on a cruise ship docked south of Tokyo. The government has shifted strategy in fighting the contagion, seeking now to slow its expansion and minimize deaths, now at five.

The Yomiuri Giants baseball team said on its website on Tuesday it would go forward with preseason games at the Tokyo Dome versus the Yakult Swallows but no fans would be in the building. Ticket refund procedures for the games on Feb. 29 and March 1 would be announced later.

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The Nihon Sumo Kyokai, the organizing association of professional sumo, confirmed to Reuters on Wednesday that a board meeting will be held on March 1 to discuss whether to proceed with its spring tournament due to start in Osaka on March 8.

The organization may host the tournament but prohibit spectators from entering the arena, cancel the entire tournament, or proceed with the tournament as planned, according to local media reports. The association has already canceled an event initially scheduled for Tuesday.

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Japan's professional soccer league, the J.League, postponed seven Levian Cup matches scheduled for Wednesday and all domestic games through the first half of March. The Tokyo Marathon on March 1 has been limited to elite runners only.

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