Analysis: the Six Nations' game between Ireland and Italy is not the first sports' event to be cancelled due to unforeseen events

Sporting events demonstrate how quickly things can change, whether it is before, during or after the planned events due to weather, natural disasters or human actions. With the Six Nations clash between Ireland and Italy postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, here's a look at some other sporting events that never were. 

The Six Nations rugby tournament has an unfortunate history of cancelled matches. In 2012, the France vs Ireland game was cancelled just minutes before kick-off because of a frozen pitch at the Stade de France. Boos rang out round the stadium as the PA announcer informed the 70,000-plus spectators that the match had been called off. By the time the game was due to start the air temperature was -5C. "Hang on to the programmes. They'll be worth something - the match that never was", was former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan's parting shot as he left the press room that evening. The two teams played out a 17-all draw three weeks later.

1972 was the worst year of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and rugby became a dangerous occupation. Following the events of Bloody Sunday and the subsequent burning of the British Embassy in Dublin, the Scottish Rugby Union Committee deemed it unsafe for their players to travel given the political situation. A series of bomb threats and death threats by the IRA ratcheted up the pressure for officials to postpone the scheduled games against Scotland and Wales. Although the remaining fixtures of the schedule were fulfilled, both Ireland and Wales won all their matches so neither could claim the title. These cancellations were the first since 1914, when Scotland refused to play France after a riot at the end of their match in Paris a year earlier. 

From RTÉ Archives, Tom MacSweeney reports for RTÉ News on the cancellation of the Ireland vs Scotland rugby match in 1972

Petrol rationing and economic difficulties have tormented the Formula One calendar, but the cancellation of a race in June 1985 was entirely preventable. A new track surface, intended to promote tyre grip in the wet, was put down in the town of Spa before the race. The trouble was that the resurfacing had only been completed 14 days before practice was due to begin. The tarmac had not set properly and parts of the track broke up during Friday trials. Saturday morning practice was quickly stopped with cars lapping 25 seconds off Friday’s pace. Following this, the race was called off just hours before it was due to take place. The organisers were fined and the meeting was held in September. 

Since 1970, the New York City Marathon has taken place every year, regardless of weather conditions. Not even the terrorist attacks of September 2001 prevented the event from taking place just a couple months later. However, in 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated the city killing 43 people. Never in its recorded history had New York experienced a storm of this size or such extensive damage throughout the city. It was the consensus that the race, which had been expected to draw more than 40,000 runners, would divert critical police and other resources. Given that the hurricane hit the city just days before the marathon was scheduled to take place, the New York marathon was cancelled for the first time.  

From CBS, news report on the cancellation of the 2012 marathon

The 1888 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship was the second staging of the event since its establishment by the GAA the previous year. It was decided that hurlers and other athletes would tour the United States in 1888, in what became known in the GAA as the "American Invasion". Intended as a money-spinner, the tour lost money, and 20 of the original 51 tourists remained in the States which is why the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship in 1888 has a black space in the roll of honour.

More recently, the Australian bush fires have forced the cancellation of several sporting events including the Australian leg of the World Rally Championship on the Coffs Coast, a league cricket match between Sydney Thunder and Adelaide Strikers, and Tennis Australia moved its Canberra International to Bendigo. 

In the face of natural disasters, terrorist attacks and global epidemics, sporting events can epitomise our relentless spirit, tenacity and determination. These events are often a welcome distraction at trying times but,  given the bigger picture, common sense must always prevail when it comes to considering the cancellation of sporting events.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ