Sporting world hit by chaos in air travel

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Sporting world hit by chaos in air travel

PARIS - From Formula One and badminton to football and MotoGP, the travel disruptions triggered by the cloud of volcanic ash that has grounded the bulk of Europe’s airline fleet has hit sporting events around the globe.

Next weekend’s Japanese MotoGP is in jeopardy, with organizers considering postponing the race until later in the season, though this week’s Champions League semifinals featuring Barcelona are safe.

In China the massive cancellation of flights back to Europe left the Formula One caravan - cars, equipment and personnel - stranded in Shanghai after last weekend’s Grand Prix.

Back in Europe, Britain’s Olympic cycling champion Bradley Wiggins was forced to miss the Amstel Gold one-day classic in the Netherlands.

The Boston marathon on Monday in the United States, meanwhile, will go ahead without Abdellah Falil, an elite runner from Morocco who has had to ditch his attempt to run in the race for the first time. The 34-year-old failed to make it across the Atlantic after being trapped in Paris for several days.

In Manchester, Valeria Sorokina and Nina Vislova became the first Russians ever to win a European Badminton title when they took the women’s doubles on Sunday, but they may now be stranded in Britain for some time.

Not only has the Icelandic volcanic ash grounded them, but their visas do not enable them to travel overland through countries other than the United Kingdom. This week’s Champions League semifinal first leg between Barcelona and Inter Milan - as well as Lyon’s trip to Bayern Munich 24 hours later - will, however, go ahead as planned. UEFA, European football’s governing body, declared both games were secure, with holders Barca en route to Milan by bus.

Barcelona’s squad were to have an overnight stopover in the French resort of Cannes over the weekend before leaving to complete the 1,000 kilometer trip to the northern Italian city. Munich-bound Lyon said that if their local airport did not reopen, they would adopt similar measures.

“We don’t have the choice. There’s not much we can do about the ash cloud,” said team captain Cris. “We have to travel by bus.”

UEFA will discuss Thursday’s Europa League semifinal fixtures soon.

Liverpool may fly out from Scotland or Ireland if English airports remain closed for their match at Atletico Madrid; Fulham, who are at Hamburg, are considering traveling by rail.

A UEFA spokesman told AFP: “The Champions League semifinals will be held as scheduled because the teams who are traveling have been able to make alternative travel arrangements.

“In regard to the Europa League, we will have a review of the situation.”

Asked if Thursday’s matches could be under threat, he did not rule out postponements.

“Obviously it has to be a sensible decision to see if it’s feasible or not, but that is exactly what our meeting is for tomorrow,” he added.

In Japan, MotoGP organizers are considering their options ahead of next weekend’s grand prix at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit.

“We are scheduled to make some formal announcement at around noon tomorrow [Monday],” Twin Ring Motegi public relations official Daisuke Naoi told AFP.

“We don’t know what we will do yet,” he said when asked if organizers were considering rescheduling what would have been the season’s second round. Media reports suggested the Japanese event had been postponed until October.

One certain casualty is the Moroccan Golf Classic, which was to have been played at the Pullman Magadan Royal Gold and Spa course starting Thursday.

Efforts are being made to reschedule the tournament later in the season.

About 30 European countries have closed or restricted their airspace due to safety fears presented by the dust cloud from last Wednesday’s eruption by the Eyjafjoell volcano in Iceland. AFP
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