China has waived its rights to host the 2023 Asian Cup finals due to the covid-19 situation in the country, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced on Saturday.
The event, which is played every four years and has 24 national teams from across the continent, would be held in 10 cities from June 16 to July 16 next year.
“After extensive discussions with the Chinese Football Association (CFA), the Asian Football Association has been officially informed by the CFA that it could not host the AFC Asian Cup 2023,” the association said in a statement.
“The AFC acknowledges the exceptional circumstances caused by the covid-19 pandemic, which led to China PR relinquishing its host rights.”
The AFC said a decision on the hosting of the tournament would be revealed in due course.
The Asian Cup is the latest international sporting event to be influenced by China’s efforts to tackle the pandemic.
Earlier this month, the Asian Games organizers, the Asian Olympic Council, postponed the next edition of the multi-sport event, which will be held in the Chinese city of Hangzhou in September, to 2023.
China continues to implement a zero-COVID policy and cities across the country have faced severe restrictions as a result of a recent outbreak of the Omicron variant.
Shanghai has been locked for more than a month while other cities, including the capital Beijing, face a wave of further curbs, frequent tests and targeted locks.
Most international sporting events in China have been postponed or canceled since the start of the pandemic, with the notable exception of the Winter Olympics, which took place in Beijing during strict health checks in February.
The Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix has not been held since 2019, while WTA events have been canceled due to a conflict over concerns over the safety of Chinese player Peng Shuai.
China is scheduled to host four ATP events this year, including the Shanghai Masters and China Open in October.
The Chinese Super League has not yet announced when the new football season will begin.
The Chinese Football Association also gave up the right to host the July East Asian Championships, and that tournament is now taking place in Japan.
China had hosted the Asian Cup for the first time since 2004, when the national team lost in the final of the Beijing Workers’ Stadium to Japan.