(Reuters) - There is no guarantee that the Tour de France will go ahead this year due to the COVID-19 crisis, French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu said on Tuesday.
The Tour, cycling’s biggest event of the year, has been rescheduled to Aug. 29-Sept 20. With crowd-drawing events being banned in France until the end of August, special arrangements might have to be made for the start of the Tour in Nice, the sports ministry said last month.
“Many people are begging me to keep the Tour even behind closed doors,” Maracineanu told France Television.
“I hope it will take place but I am not sure. We do not know what the epidemic will be like after lockdown.”
France’s lockdown, in place since March 17, will be partially lifted on Monday, although the seasons of several sports championships, including soccer’s Ligue 1 and rugby’s Top 14, have already been abandoned.
Maracineanu added that the Tour and tennis’s rescheduled French Open, expected to start on Sept. 20, could be held behind closed doors should the ban on popular events be extended.
“Just like the Tour de France, the French Open is the quintessence of professional sports with fans. The Roland Garros stadiums have many seats to fill, having it be played behind closed doors would be the worst solution but we would do it if the survival of those sports was at stake,” she said.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson